RNCM Library: Black History Month – Williams-Howard Collection

Our wonderful Library have written a blog focussed on the collection of African Art Songs recently added to their catalogue.

Linked to the prize of the same name, the Williams-Howard Collection can be found by searching for ‘Williams-Howard’ in the Library database.

Here are some of the fantastic composers who have contributed:

Williams-Howard Prize finalists and panel

Participants of the first Williams-Howard Prize

Damien Geter

Damien Geter is not only an acclaimed bass-baritone and actor, but he also composes music intended to promote social justice for all. Visit his website for more information on his compositions and up-to-date news on his other work.

Invisible: for baritone, piano, and muted trumpet (or clarinet) based on the opening prologue of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible man (shelfmark: M 1612 GET).
Bronze legacy: for baritone and mixed chamber ensemble (shelfmark: M3000Q GET).

James Lee III

James Lee III is an American composer and pianist who has worked with orchestras across the USA. A full list of his works can be found on his website as well as selected recordings.

Chava’s daughters speak: for soprano, clarinet and piano (shelfmark: M 1612 LEE).
Songs of love and loss: for baritone and piano (shelfmark: M 1621 LEE).

Vincent Dion Stringer

Vincent Dion Stringer is an American baritone and wrote the text for the above piece.

Dorothy Rudd Moore

Dorothy Rudd Moore overcame barriers of race and gender to pursue her passion in music, and went on to found the Society of Black Composers in 1968.

Flowers of darkness: Song cycle for tenor and piano on texts by six African-American poets (shelfmark: M 1621 MOO).
Songs: Twelve quatrains from the Rubaiyat for mezzo-soprano and oboe (shelfmark: M 1611 MOO).

More information about her can be found the book below written by William C Banfield, who is also a composer. In it she says:

One thing I have not been happy with is that well-respected universities have very little information about black composers. 

We’ll keep working on it, Dorothy!

Musical landscapes in color: Conversations with Black American Composers (shelfmark: ML 385 BAN).

Robert Owens

Robert Owens was an American composer who often set his music to words by Black poets. Here are a few:

Silver Rain Op 11: Song cycle for tenor and piano (shelfmark: M 1621 OWE).
Three Countee Cullen songs Op 27: for high voice and piano (shelfmark: M 1621 OWE).
Six Negro spirituals: A cycle for bass (baritone) and piano (shelfmark: M 1670 OWE).

Dave Ragland

Dave Ragland is a highly accomplished composer with a keen interest in spirituals – you can find some of them on our catalogue:

Spirituals: arr. for voice and piano. High (shelfmark: M 1670 RAG).
Let’s have a union: Negro spiritual (SSATBB) (shelfmark: M 1566 Rag).

Check out his website here!

And if you’re a fan of spirituals, give these guys a try: Sean Okpebholo, Margaret Bonds, Edward Boatner, Edgar Rogie Clark.

Shirley J Thompson

Shirley J Thompson is an English composer, director, conductor… the list goes on! She has written a lot for film and enjoys working with dancers and other visual artists. Read about her rather impressive accomplishments on her website, and check out what we have of hers on our shelves:

Psalm to Windrush: to the brave and ingenious, for 4 voice and organ; arr. for baritone and piano (shelfmark: M 1621S THO).

The woman who refused to dance: arranged for soprano, narrator, violoncello and piano (shelfmark: M 1612 THO).

Thank You

Finally, we would like to say a big thank you to Michael Harper who established the Williams-Howard Prize and curated the new collection.

10 October 2022