As we start the celebration of African-American History month, I’ll be sharing music by black composers or based on traditional spirituals. I begin with 3 seldom heard pieces.
The Prelude is “Lotus,” a song by Billy Strayhorn (a trumpet player in the Duke Ellington Band). The arrangement comes from the pen of Alec Wyton. This song was a favorite of “the Duke.” In fact, he played it before most of his concerts after Strayhorn’s untimely death. The Ellington family asked Dr. Wyton to play an improvisation on this tune as the Prelude for the Duke’s funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City where Wyton was organist. (Don’t be surprised if the tune stays with you through the week…and beyond.)
The Offertory is a jazz setting of the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Joe Utterback, a jazz pianist and the music director at Stamford Presbyterian Church in Connecticut. It is one of a series of “Jazz Settings for Classical Organ.” (As an aside, Utterback and I attended the same high school in Red Bank, NJ.)
As a Postlude, I’ll share an improvisation on the spiritual “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Since it will be “composed on the spot,” I can’t share much about it…except it will be a real live “goin’ out” piece.
I hope you will appreciate the unusual selection of sounds coming from our wonderful Schantz Organ.
See you Sunday!