William Grant Still

Biography

Born: May 11, 1895; Woodville, MS   Died: December 3, 1978; Los Angeles, CA  
"With humble thanks to God, the Source of Inspiration." Such is the inscription to be found on the scores of the works of William Grant Still, sometimes called "The Dean of African-American Composers" and one of America's most versatile musicians.

Still was but three months old when his father, the town bandmaster, died. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Little Rock, AK. Still has written movingly of the
Read more influence his mother and grandmother had in forming his character and instilling in him a love for the arts. In addition, his new stepfather was a big music fan, and encouraged his stepson's interest by taking him to operettas and buying him recordings. Still's education continued at Wilberforce University, which he entered at age sixteen, and at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he studied theory and composition. He also had studies with George W. Chadwick and Edgard Varèse, all the while supporting himself by playing in orchestras and bands.

After a stint in the U.S. Navy in 1918, Still did arrangements for W. C. Handy and Paul Whiteman, played oboe in the famous Noble Sissle-Eubie Blake revue Shuffle Along, and began a decades-long association with radio, arranging and producing programs for the Mutual and Columbia networks. His early compositions were fairly dissonant and complex (perhaps under Varèse's influence); he made a major breakthrough when he took Chadwick's advice and started incorporating elements of African American and popular musical styles into his works. His first big hit, and his best-known work to this day, is his first symphony, the "Afro-American," which was given its premiere in Rochester, NY, in 1931, and was soon performed all over the world.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1934, Still turned his attention to film, providing the scores for movies like Lost Horizon and the original Pennies from Heaven. Later he also scored a number of television shows, including Perry Mason and Gunsmoke. Guggenheim and Rosenwald Fellowships allowed him to produce large-scale works like the ballet Lenox Avenue (1937) and the operas Blue Steel (1935) and Troubled Island (1938). The last-named work -- with a libretto by Langston Hughes and based on the life of Dessalines, the first Emperor of Haiti and one of the major figures in Haiti's independence -- was premiered by the New York City Opera in 1949 and was very well received.

Still continued to write politically and racially conscious works throughout his life, such as the narrated work And They Lynched Him On A Tree (1940) and In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died For Democracy (1944). In the 1950s, he turned to writing children's works, such as The American Scene (1957), a set of five suites for young people based on geographic regions of the United States.

In 1981, Still's opera A Bayou Legend was the first by an African-American composer to be performed on national television. He was also the first African American to conduct a major U.S. orchestra (when he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a Hollywood Bowl concert of his own music), and the first African-American composer to have his works performed by major American orchestras and opera companies. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 65 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Thomas Hampson - Autograph
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 2564619045 Release Date: 04/14/2015   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Charles Gounod,  Ambroise Thomas,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Hampson,  Charlotte Margiono,  Delores Ziegler,  Barbara Bonney  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Michel Plasson,  Antonio de Almeida,  Richard Armstrong  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Netherlands Opera Chorus,  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Conclave
    Label: Gia   Catalog: 935 Release Date: 05/13/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Stanislaw Skrowaczewski,  Donald Grantham,  William Grant Still  ... 
    Conductor:  Eugene Corporon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  North Texas Wind Symphony
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  • 3.
    Rarely Performed Piano Works, Vol. 2 / Seta Karakashian
    Label: Roméo Records   Catalog: 7298 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Grant Still,  Richard Strauss,  Aexander Spendiarian,  Georges Bizet
    Performer:  Seta Karakashian
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  • 4.
    Violin Lullabies / Rachel Barton Pine
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 139 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Eugène Ysaÿe,  Vladimir I. Rebikov,  Amy Marcy Beach  ... 
    Performer:  Rachel Barton Pine,  Matthew Hagle
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  • 5.
    Still: The American Scene / Clark, Manhattan Co
    Label: Newport Classic   Catalog: 85596 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Grant Still
    Performer:  Howard Cass,  Margaret Astrup
    Conductor:  Richard Auldon Clark
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Manhattan Chamber Orchestra
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  • 6.
    Exiles' Cafe / Lara Downes
    Label: Steinway & Sons   Catalog: 30016 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Frédéric Chopin,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Bohuslav Martinu  ... 
    Performer:  Lara Downes
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  • 7.
    Piano Duo Project / Adderley, Holliday
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1383 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dolores White,  William Grant Still,  Hale Smith,  Cedric Adderley
    Performer:  Meisha Adderley,  Stacey Holliday
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Adderley & Holliday Piano Duo
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  • 8.
    But Not Forgotten - Clarinet Music By African American Composers / Eley, DeSa
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 92156 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dorothy Rudd Moore,  Alvin Batiste,  Clarence Cameron White,  Undine Smith Moore  ... 
    Performer:  Marcus Eley,  Lucerne DeSa
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  • 9.
    Neeme Jarvi - Highlights From A Remarkable 30 Year Recording Career
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 24144 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Johan Halvorsen,  Gustav Mahler,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Melina Madozzi,  Linda Finnie,  Felicity Lott,  Suzanne Murphy  ... 
    Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
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  • 10.
    Still: Symphonies 2 & 3, Wood Notes / Jeter, Fort Smith Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559676 Release Date: 12/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Grant Still
    Conductor:  John Jeter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fort Smith Symphony
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  • 11.
    Frenesi / Artie Shaw
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 61064 Release Date: 10/04/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Cole Porter,  Artie Shaw,  George Gershwin,  Alberto Dominguez  ... 
    Conductor:  Artie Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Artie Shaw Orchestra
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  • 12.
    Still, Dvorak, Barber, Gershwin / Serafin String Quartet
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 3050 Release Date: 09/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  George Gershwin,  Samuel Barber,  William Grant Still
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Serafin String Quartet
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  • 13.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 259 Release Date: 09/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alan Hovhaness,  Bernard Rogers,  Roy Travis,  Arthur Cohn  ... 
    Conductor:  Arthur Bennet Lipkin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Cherry Rhodes At The Kimmel Center
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3381 Release Date: 08/31/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Clarence Mader,  José Lidón,  Jean Guillou  ... 
    Performer:  Cherry Rhodes
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  • 15.
    All In
    Label: Bgr Records (Usa)   Catalog: 133 Release Date: 03/09/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Madeleine Dring,  Charles Ruggiero,  Phil Popham,  Léo Delibes  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helix Collective
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  • 16.
    William Grant Still: Symphonies No 4 & 5, Etc / John Jeter, Et Al
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559603 Release Date: 10/27/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Grant Still
    Conductor:  John Jeter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fort Smith Symphony
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  • 17.
    Works By Moross, Still, Osborn & Dietz / Toledo Clarinets
    Label: Cambria   Catalog: 1190 Release Date: 10/27/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jerome Moross,  William Grant Still,  Sean Osborn,  Christopher Dietz
    Performer:  Kevin Schempf,  Elliot Ross,  Chelsea II Tipton,  Greg Kostraba  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toledo Clarinets
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  • 18.
    Wondrous Free - Songs Of America II / Thomas Hampson
    Label: Thomas Hampson Media   Catalog: 5432 Release Date: 09/15/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francis Hopkinson,  Leonard Bernstein,  Charles Ives,  Jay Ungar  ... 
    Performer:  Wolfram Rieger,  Thomas Hampson,  Craig Rutenberg
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  • 19.
    Variations on America - Organ Works / Iain Quinn
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10489 Release Date: 05/26/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Stephen Paulus,  Samuel Barber,  Henry Cowell,  Charles Ives  ... 
    Performer:  Iain Quinn
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  • 20.
    Kelly Hall-Tompkins - In My Own Voice
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1278 Release Date: 01/13/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  David Nathaniel Baker,  William Grant Still,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Kelly Hall-Tompkins,  Craig Ketter,  Anna Reinersman
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  • 21.
    Here's One
    Label: Four-tay   Catalog: 4005 Release Date: 01/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Florence Beatrice Price,  Aaron Copland,  Henry Cowell,  Lee Hoiby  ... 
    Performer:  Zina Schiff,  Cameron Grant
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  • 22.
    Legacy - Still, Kay, Etc / Lecolion Washington, Et Al
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1038 Release Date: 08/12/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ed Bland,  Gary Powell Nash,  Ulysses S. Kay,  Adolphus Hailstork  ... 
    Performer:  Lecolion Washington,  Carina Washington,  Mark Ensley
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  • 23.
    Dring, Still, Damase / The Spectral Trio
    Label: Blue Griffin   Catalog: 125 Release Date: 02/19/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jean-Michel Damase,  William Grant Still,  Madeleine Dring
    Performer:  Kimberly Schmidt,  Richard Sherman,  Jan Eberle
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Spectral Trio
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  • 24.
    Musical Voyage
    Label: Centaurus Classics   Catalog: 5637311224 Release Date: 07/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Carissimi,  Antonio Caldara,  Franz Schubert,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Brice,  Diane Barere,  Eric Trudel,  Gilbert-Michel Rolle  ... 
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  • 25.
    Label: Viola Concerts   Catalog: 5637357021 Release Date: 12/12/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Grant Still,  David Nathaniel Baker,  John W. II Work
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William Grant Still


MOST POPULAR WORKS
Land of Peace
Land of Romance
Land of Superstition
I. El Monigote
II. Anda Buscando de Rosa en Rosa
III. Tayeras
No. 1. I Ride and Old Paint
No. 2. Adolorido
No. 3. Jesus Is a Rock in the Weary Land
No. 4. Yaravi
No. 5. A Frog Went A-Courtin'
No. 1. Cloud Cradles
No. 2. Mystic Pool
No. 3. Muted Laughter
No. 4. Out of the Silence
No. 5. Woven Silver
No. 6. Wailing Dawn
No. 7. A Bit of Wit
I. Moderato assai
II. Adagio
III. Animato
IV. Lento, con risoluzione
No. 1. Dark Horsemen
No. 2. Summerland
No. 3. Radiant Pinnacle
WORKS
Land of Peace
Land of Romance
Land of Superstition
I. El Monigote
II. Anda Buscando de Rosa en Rosa
III. Tayeras
No. 1. I Ride and Old Paint
No. 2. Adolorido
No. 3. Jesus Is a Rock in the Weary Land
No. 4. Yaravi
No. 5. A Frog Went A-Courtin'
Part 1
Part 2
No. 1. Cloud Cradles
No. 2. Mystic Pool
No. 3. Muted Laughter
No. 4. Out of the Silence
No. 5. Woven Silver
No. 6. Wailing Dawn
No. 7. A Bit of Wit
I. Moderato assai
II. Adagio
III. Animato
IV. Lento, con risoluzione
I. Slowly
II. Slowly and deeply expressive
III. Moderately fast
IV. Moderately slow
I. The Awakening: Moderately fast
II. Prayer: Very Slowly
III. Relaxation: Gaily
IV. Day's End and a New Beginning: Resolutely
I. Moderately
II. Slowly
III. With a graceful lilt
IV. Slowly and reverently
I. Briskly
II. Slowly, and with utmost grace
III. Energetically
IV. Moderately
No. 1. Dark Horsemen
No. 2. Summerland
No. 3. Radiant Pinnacle
I. Singing River: Moderately slow
II. Autumn Night: Lightly
III. Moon Dusk: Slowly and expressively
IV. Whippoorwill's Shoes: Humorously