Chapin High School students received a special music presentation about baritone African American classical composer and singer Harry Burleigh, and his impact on American music.
American cultural historian, or musicologist, Joseph Horowitz shared the unique history of Burleigh, who inspired classically trained musicians like Antonín Dvořák. Burleigh also composed his own pieces and was well known for composing art songs.
“Burleigh is mainly forgotten, but what he did is historic. Before Harry Burleigh no one had sung a spiritual in concert as a solo song,” Horowitz said. “That was his inspiration. He wrote the spirituals down and sung them himself. He made a great contribution to American music.”
Horowitz was set to share the Chapin auditorium stage with one of America’s leading bass-baritones Kevin Deas to perform samples of Burleigh’s music. However weather conditions on the east coast prevented Deas from arriving today.
Students were still treated to Deas’ voice via recorded videos, as well as a live performance by Horowitz on piano and UTEP professor Dr. Lorenzo Candelaria on violin.
“Whenever I get a chance to reach out to the community and meet with students at high schools that’s always a highlight for me. It’s a treat,” Candelaria said.
The duo performed a movement from the Sonatina in G major for violin and piano by Dvořák.
Choir student Chloe Curtis doesn’t like listening to modern music. Instead she dotes on classical composers and musical theater –a fact she proudly proclaims.
“I think this is amazing,” Curtis said. “I have always been interested in learning about different composers and classical music. I didn’t know about him (Burleigh), but I am glad I do now. I am going to look more into his music.”
Horowitz hopes his lesson inspires students to embrace music.
“What I hope is apparent is that the power of music is embodied in these songs,” Horowitz said. “They were sung by slaves. It was a spontaneous utterance that was necessary for their own spiritual well being because their lives were so difficult. They found consolation and hope through music.”