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Moore/Perkinson: Somewhere Far Away; Williams: A Journey To Freedom, Etc / Toppin, Goodman, Et Al

Release Date: 12/09/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1072   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Julius P. WilliamsRene Moore
Performer:  Louise ToppinGabrielle GoodmanRoy BelfieldArmsted Christian
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony OrchestraWinston Salem State University Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WILLIAMS Toccatina for String Orchestra. A Journey to Freedom Honor and Glory: An American Hero Jon Daniels 1. R. MOORE Somewhere Far Away 2 Julius Williams, cond; 1 Louise Toppin (sop); 1 Desire Dubose (ms); 1 Julius P. Williams III (tenor); Read more 2 Gabrielle Goodman (sop); 2 Armstead Christian (tenor); 2 Roy L. Belfield (pn); 2 Reston Chorale; 1 Frederick Wygal (nar); 1 Winston Salem St U Ch; Dvo?ák SO ALBANY 1072 (56:07 Text and Translation)

Julius Williams wears many hats, being a prolific composer, widely traveled conductor, educator, author, and recording artist, so it is nice to become familiar with some of the work of this multifaceted musical maven. I find his music both engaging and rewarding, worth repeated hearings.

The CD’s opening work, the Toccatina for string orchestra, was commissioned by the Camerata Youth Orchestra in New York and premiered by the same ensemble in 1985. This is a simple and beautiful piece, proving that music does not have to be complex to be profound. Its gentle lyrical opening shortly gives way to a section with greater rhythmic activity, but the piece never strays far from its opening material. The musical language resides within the sphere of composers such as Barber or Diamond, while maintaining its distinctive voice.

I am a bit taken aback by the next work, Somewhere Far Away, given the title of the CD ( The Music of Julius Williams ). It turns out not to be a work of his at all, although one has to read the notes and tray card carefully to ascertain this information. Williams includes it on the CD of his music as a memorial to his friend Joe Westmoreland, who wrote the text, which like that of many spirituals looks forward to a time where there will be “no more crying and tears.” Its music was composed by Rene Moore and the orchestration accomplished by Coleridge Taylor Perkinson. The work is an interesting synthesis of classical art music, supplied by the orchestra and chorus, and the African-American popular vocal style, effectively rendered by the three soloists. The combination works quite well, and the piece has some truly beautiful and effective moments, but also some rather commonplace writing. The whole is not enhanced by the orchestrator’s overuse of the harp. Consequently, I find the work to reside on a lower plane of inspiration than that achieved by Williams in his own works.

The CD is filled out with its major work, a half-hour, nine-movement cantata for chorus, soloists, and orchestra, A Journey to Freedom, Honor, and Glory: Celebrating Jonathan Daniels. The work remembers the young man who participated in civil rights activism as a protégé of Martin Luther King. Daniels participated in the march in Selma, Alabama, and some time afterward was murdered when he pushed down 16-year-old Ruby Sales, another protestor, and took the full brunt of a shotgun blast by a man who had been threatening his group. The shot killed him instantly, but his act of heroism saved the life of the young woman. The texts set are powerfully gripping, and the music underpins them vividly, reaching its dramatic climax in a movement titled “Hate and Injustice.” This particular movement is characterized by driving rhythms and an intense vocal line effectively rendered by the composer’s son. The cantata as a whole makes a powerful impression, reminding the listener of one of the darker periods of our nation’s history. Its impact will not quickly be forgotten.

This disc will be enjoyed by anyone interested in conservative American music and/or social themes. The music and subject matter certainly transcends race or ethnicity, and the Toccatina, especially, ought to be in the standard repertory for school orchestras.

FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

Toccatina for String Orchestra by Julius P. Williams
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; Aspen, Colorado, USA 
A Journey to Freedom by Julius P. Williams
Performer:  Louise Toppin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Winston Salem State University Choir
Written: by 2004; USA 
Somewhere far away by Rene Moore
Performer:  Gabrielle Goodman (Voice), Roy Belfield (Piano), Armsted Christian (Voice)
Conductor:  Julius P. Williams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dvorak Symphony Orchestra,  Winston Salem State University Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1975 
Notes: Arranger: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. 

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