A CLASSICAL BENEFIT RECITAL FEATURING “NEW” MUSIC BY FLORENCE B. PRICE
Pianist Josh Tatsuo Cullen Revives a Noble Tradition with Newly Published Music
Students of music history know that until World War I benefit concerts for social causes were an integral part of the social structures of classical music: concerts and recitals for the benefit of the victims of floods or fires, for wartime widows and children, for the poor of the artist’s or ensemble’s city were weekly events in Europe as in the U.S. Such concerts are still common in the cultures of popular music.
But they’re rare in the U.S. classical community — central to the brand of artists such as Lara Downes, who constantly concertizes for the benefit of other organizations, and a few others, yes; but rare. That’s a shame for many reasons (and no doubt part of why many in this country view classical music as rarefied elitism hopelessly divorced from “the real world”), and history teaches with compelling clarity that nothing could be further from the truth. But the popular (mis)perception endures.
This coming Monday, January 17, on the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, pianist and conductor Josh Tatsuo Cullen is doing his part to revive that noble but now-uncommon tradition: offering an all-Price benefit recital at Borelli’s Pizza — Lincoln Square, in Price’s adopted city of Chicago. The recital is for the benefit of Musicians United for Social Equity (MUSE). That organization’s website states that the group’s mission is “to cultivate more racial equity in theatrical music departments by providing access, internships, mentorships, and support to historically marginalized people of color,” adding that “MUSE aims to challenge systemic acts of exclusion and support musicians as we transition to a more diverse and inclusive environment for all.” These causes are, to say the least, worthy and timely in the extreme.
There’s another laudable thing about Cullen’s concert: it confronts head-on the paradox of a musical world that continually exclaims breathlessly about the discovery of a huge trove of Price’s music in an abandoned house in 2009 but then continues to perform, mostly, the music that was already available before that discovery. If the finding was significant enough to warrant breathless exclamations, why not play, teach, and discuss its musical yields? If those yields weren’t significant enough to play, teach, and discuss, why keep talking about how important they were?
Mr. Cullen’s program does the right thing: it consists entirely of music that was found in that house in 2009, and it’s for the benefit of MUSE. He’ll reprise the program in a formal concert at Grand Valley State University on February 2. For those who support the cause represented by MUSE and Mr. Cullen, are aficionados of Florence Price and eager to learn more about the extraordinary yield of great music found in that abandoned house nearly thirteen years ago, and are within the area, these are concerts not to be missed.
Here’s the program (I’ve blogged about some of these works previously, and those posts are linked for the interest of anyone who wants to learn more):