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H. T. Burleigh: "From the Southland" now on YouTube

In this episode of "Bach@Home" you will learn about composer Harry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) and hear his only work for piano solo "From the Southland." Inspired by ragtime, jazz, classical art song, and the African-American spirituals, this cycle of six character pieces is warm, rich, and complex. Burleigh's mother and maternal grandfather were both formerly enslaved, having bought their own way to freedom. As a young boy, Harry loved music, sang in multiple church choirs, and grew up to be a baritone. Burleigh was passionate about hearing live music, however, as a young man of color he was not allowed to enter segregated venues. His mother helped him arrange a job of a doorman so that he could attend musical events without putting himself in danger. Burleigh was the one to introduce spirituals to Antonin Dvorak (at the time the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City), who was fascinated by them an deemed spirituals central to the development of American music. Burleigh himself wrote 200 art songs for voice and piano, and became famous for his concert arrangements of the spirituals, bringing the genre from a plantation to the concert hall. One of the spirituals, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" is featured in the 5th movement of "From the Southland," titled "On Bended Knees." This piece was performed in the 1912 Carnegie Hall concert of Black music.


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