Music by Mary D. Watkins and Olly W. Wilson
The Center for Black Music Research and Albany Records are proud to introduce this first recording in a historically significant series of recordings that will encompass music from the African diaspora.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Parsons Family Foundation and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
Cover image: “Voyager” by Kerry James Marshall, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Used by permission of the artist.
Five Movements in Color Mary D. Watkins
- Once Upon a Time
- Soul of Remembrance
- Urban Suave and Dance Survivalist
- Slow Burn
- Drive by Runner
- Leslie B. Dunner, Conductor
- New Black Music Repertory Ensemble
Of Visions and Truth: A Song Cycle Olly W. Wilson
- I've Been 'Buked
- Interlude I
- Interlude II
- If We Must Die
- Kirk Smith, Conductor
- New Black Music Repertory Ensemble
- Bonita Hyman, Mezzo Soprano
- Rodrick Dixon, Tenor
- Donnie Ray Albert, Baritone
Mary D. Watkins – “Soul of Remembrance”
Olly W. Wilson – “If We Must Die”
Mary D. Watkins is an eclectic composer and pianist of the classical and jazz traditions. After moving from the East Coast to California, she established her own jazz group, playing the Monterey and Russian River jazz festivals, major jazz clubs, and many other important jazz venues. Since the mid-1980s, Watkins has also focused on composing, receiving numerous commissions for orchestra, theater, and dance. Among those who have commissioned works are the Women's Philharmonic and the American Jazz Theater. She has also won commissioning funds from the National Endowment of the Arts, Meet the Composer, and other agencies. Watkins has composed music for many award-winning documentary films—three of which were nominated for Academy Awards—and has produced and recorded several albums. Her full-length opera Queen Clara was completed and premiered in 2005; her second opera, Dark River, commissioned by the Oakland Opera Theatre, was completed in 2009. Five Movements in Color was commissioned in 1993 by the Camellia Symphony Orchestra with funding from Meet the Composer and the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and was premiered in 1994.
Olly W. Wilson is the recipient of numerous awards for his creative work as a composer, including awards from the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky, Rockefeller, Fromm, and Lila Wallace foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His works have been commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, and the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, St Louis, and San Francisco symphonies as well as many others in the United States and abroad. Wilson's works have been recorded by noteworthy ensembles and symphony orchestras such as the Boston Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Thamyris Ensemble. Wilson has published scholarly articles on African, American, and African-American music and conducted numerous concerts of contemporary music. He is professor of music emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, where he held the Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers Distinguished Chair in Music from 1995 to 1998. Of Visions and Truth was commissioned by the Center for Black Music Research in 1989 with funding from the Borg-Warner Foundation for the Black Music Repertory Ensemble and was premiered in February 1991 in Orchestra Hall Chicago.
Founded in 1999, the Center's current performance organization is the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble, a large ensemble of up to eighty professional musicians. Its mission is as ambitious as it is unique, drawing from the repertoire the Center's three earlier ensembles: the nationally acclaimed Black Music Repertory Ensemble (1987–1996), which presented black music in the written tradition from the eighteenth century to the present; Ensemble Kalinda Chicago (1994-1998), which demonstrated the common origins and shared musical traits of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin American musics; and Ensemble Stop-Time (1998-2001), which demonstrated the gamut of twentieth-century black American popular music, ranging from Negro spirituals to ragtime, gospel song, R&B, soul, rap, and all styles and periods of jazz from Jelly Roll Morton to the avant-garde stylings of the AACM.
Donnie Ray Albert, baritone, was a founding member of the CBMR's Black Music Repertory Ensemble and premiered the Olly Wilson piece that is featured on this recording. He has sung major roles in opera houses around the world, including Tokyo's New National Theatre, the Klangbogen Festival in Vienna, and opera companies of Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., Houston, New Orleans, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Berlin, Giessen, Bordeaux, Köln, Milan, Mannheim, and Hamburg. As a concert artist, Albert has sung at Royal Festival Hall (London) and with the National Orchestra and a large number of national and international orchestras. He is heard on RCA's Grammy Award and Grand Prix du Disque–winning recording of Porgy and Bess. Other recordings include EMI's Frühlingsbegräbnis and Eine Florentinesche Tragodie by Alexander von Zemlinsky; Simon Sargon's A Clear Midnight, on Gasparo label; and the recently recorded world premiere of Franz Liszt's St. Stanislaus on Telarc.
Rodrick Dixon, tenor, has established himself as a recitalist and rising star in opera, oratorio, musical theater, and television. He has performed with Los Angeles Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Detroit Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, and the Cleveland Symphony. Dixon’s credits include varied operatic roles in works such as Tannhäuser, Don Quichotte, Il Trovatore, La Bohème, and La Traviata. With soprano Alfreda Burke, he has performed recitals and concerts throughout the world. His extensive television credits include PBS specials, television commercials, and appearances on NBC, ABC, and CBS. Dixon has recorded for Sony/BMG and PBS Great Performances; his recordings also include Cook, Dixon & Young Volume One, Follow That Star Christmas CD (T.D. Jakes, EMI), Liam Lawton's Sacred Land (GIA), and Rodrick Dixon Live in Concert.
Leslie B. Dunner, one of the premier American conductors of his generation, enjoys an international career distinguished by the breadth of his repertoire as well as his critically lauded performances. Dunner's concert engagements have included many major national and international orchestras, including, among others, the Atlanta, Chicago, and Cleveland orchestras and orchestras in Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and Italy. Ballet and opera performances have included the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet Company, London's Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, Opera Ebony in New York City, and Opera Africa's 2007 production of Mziliazi Khumalo's Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu at Den Norske Opera in Oslo, Norway. His compositions have been successfully performed in the United States and abroad. The recording of his Motherless Child Songs is available on the Innova label and his 1993 recording with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, Magical Mystical Mouse (music from animated films), on the Pro Arte label. Dunner's composition, “The Whirligigs of Time,” a work for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra, was commissioned and performed by the Prince George's Philharmonic Orchestra in March, 2006.
Bonita Hyman, mezzo-soprano, was a member of the CBMR's Black Music Repertory Ensemble and performed Olly Wilson's Of Visions and Truth with that ensemble on its 1991 national tour. Hyman has a major opera career, primarily in Europe, where she has sung major roles in many houses, including Théâtre Luxenbourg, Opéra Comique, Paris, Théâtre de Caen, Opéra de Marseille, Opéra Nationale de Lyon, Palacìo de Bellas Artes (Mexico City), Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Volkstheater Rostock, Theater Erfurt, Nationale Reisopera, Stadttheater Giessen; Oper Bonn, and Oper Leipzig. In the United States, she has sung at Sacramento Opera, the Chicago Opera Theater, the Opera Ensemble of New York, Opera Ebony, Dallas Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, and the Metropolitan Opera. Hyman sang several major roles in the 2001 world premiere of Wendell Logan's Doxology Opera, commissioned by the Center for Black Music Research with funding from Meet the Composer. Recordings to her credit include the original cast recording of Michaël Lévinas's Les Nègres, recorded at the Grand Théâtre de Genève with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
Kirk Smith has conducted symphony orchestras throughout the United States and abroad, including appearances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville, Atlanta, Cleveland, Boston, Houston, New York, Mexico, and Taipei (Taiwan). He has worked with notable soloists such as violinists Robert McDuffie and Sanford Allen, cellist Anthony Elliott, and vocalists Simon Estes, William Brown, Hilda Harris, and Donnie Ray Albert. Smith has collaborated with highly regarded American composers such as Libby Larson, Hale Smith, and William Russo, having conducted premieres of their works. As lecturer and clinician, he has presented sessions in regional and national venues including the Conductors Guild Annual National Conference and the Georgia Music Educators Conference. Smith was a continuing conductor of the Center's New Black Music Repertory Ensemble and of the Black Music Repertory Ensemble, with whom he performed Wilson's Of Visions and Truth on national tour in 1991.