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Florence Price’s First Symphony, the 1933–34 World’s Fair, and Three Tribbles

In the first part of this post I talked about the context for the premiere of Florence Price’s First Symphony. That premiere was part of a concert themed “The Negro in Music” and offered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Music Director Frederick Stock on June 15, 1933. As I noted there, it was a milestone in many ways — and in latter-day commentaries on Price it’s often the only part of her professional biography that is mentioned with any specificity, eclipsing the extraordinary two subsequent decades of her creative life.

But in…


Florence Price’s First Symphony, the 1933–34 World’s Fair, and Three Tribbles (Part 1)

Never in my career of writing did I expect that one day I would link the concert program that included the world premiere of Florence B. Price’s First Symphony and music history’s retelling of that narrative with a classic and much-beloved episode of the original series of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. But here we are. This is a three-part post, so I hope you’ll bear with me because, to be perfectly frank, the points I’m covering are not just informational, but actually important. Here goes . . .

The Trouble with Tribbles” ranks as one of the most enduringly…


Florence B. Price’s “Night” (Text by Bessie Mayle)

The poetry, music, and other art of the Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Black Renaissance was enormously consequential in doing something that had previously been taboo in the profoundly racist world of the United States: it affirmed that Blackness is inherently beautiful and, equally important, that the White-dominated world’s ubiquitous portrayal of Black as an incursion into White space was unjust and simply wrong, an implicit but potent assertion that Blackness inherently encroached on White dominance. …


Sometime in 1930, Florence B. Price (1887–1953) wrote a poem titled Song of Hope and set it to music as an expansive composition for soprano solo, baritone solo, chorus, and large orchestra — a score that runs to thirty-two pages and perhaps twelve minutes, and that pre-dates her oft-discussed First Symphony by three years and thus stands as her first major orchestral composition (with chorus). The work is not mentioned in Dr. Rae Linda Brown’s recently released biography of the composer, and the circumstances of its composition remain obscure. …


Maeve Brophy and one of the Seven Descriptive Pieces for Piano Solo (1927–28)

A month or so ago I published the premiere edition of Florence B. Price’s Seven Descriptive Pieces for piano solo.[1] This edition was number fifty-nine (59) in my series of source-critical editions of compositions by Price that, despite the considerable attention being devoted to Price in recent musical and musicological discourse, have lain untouched — neither consulted, nor edited, nor performed, nor studied, nor taught — in the Special Collections division of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, for the last decade. The paradox of its obscurity, and the pity of its having remained ignored even by those for whom Price…


Resurrecting a Blacklisted Musical Affirmation of Freedom from 1976 in 2021

[Update (March 8, 2021): The June 13, 2009 revival of Harris’s “Bicentennial Symphony” has been repackaged and is currently available for broadcast to any interested NPR station beginning today thru June 30, 2021. The repackaged audio and video versions are also available via MusicUNTOLD website and the MusicUNTOLD YouTube channel.]

Two seemingly unrelated facts:

  • On February 10–12, 1976, the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Murry Sidlin (b. 1940) premiered the Bicentennial Symphony (Symphony No. 13/14[1]) of U.S. composer Roy Harris (1898–1979) as part of that year’s many…

Margaret Bonds (1913–72) is commanding increasing attention as a composer lately — an acknowledgment that is at once timely and long overdue. But she was also a pianist, and apparently quite a good one. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as a pianist from Northwestern University, where she studied with acclaimed piano pedagogue Emily Boettcher Bogue (1907–92) and performed as soloist in the oft-discussed premiere of Florence Price’s First Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. She then went on to study in New York with Djane Lavoie-Herz (1889–1982; herself a student…


MARGARET BONDS (1913–72) WAS A CONCERT PIANIST as well as a composer. By the age of eight she had been taking piano lessons for several years, and she studied piano with Emily Boettcher Bogue (1907–92) at Northwestern University, earning her Mus. B. and Mus. M. degrees in piano in 1933 and 1934, respectively. This was followed by six years of further study with Djane Lavoie-Herz (1889–1982; herself a student of Schnabel and Scriabin and a teacher of Ruth Crawford Seeger as well as Bonds). …


Margaret Bonds, Langston Hughes, and the Note on Commercial Theater

In the chapter titled “When the Negro Was in Vogue” of his 1940 autobiography The Big Sea, Langston Hughes offers a famous passage about White culture’s economic exploitation of Black culture during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance:

White people began to come to Harlem in droves. For several years they packed the expensive Cotton Club on Lenox Avenue. But I was never there, because the Cotton Club was a Jim Crow club for gangsters and monied [sic] whites. They were not cordial to Negro patronage, unless you were a celebrity like Bojangles . So Harlem Negroes did not like…


On Performers’ and Listeners’ Rediscovery of Florence Price’s “Clouds” (ca. 1947)

LIKE ABOUT THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY of the more than three hundred and seventy pieces that Florence B. Price (1887–1953) is known to have composed, Clouds is neither discussed nor even mentioned in any of the currently available writings that are fueling the ongoing Florence Price renaissance — not even in the authoritative life-and-works study written by Dr. Rae Linda Brown, edited by Guthrie P. Ramsey jr., and published in June 2020 by the University of Illinois Press. I published Clouds with G. Schirmer in January 2020, and in that same month tireless Price champion Lara Downes released the world-premiere…

John Michael Cooper

A musicologist with a passion for social justice, bringing unheard music to life for performers and listeners, and teaching.

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