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  Le chevalier de Saint-George: Un Africain à la cour: Concertos et Symphonies pour la Spectacle de Bartabas, Académie du Spectacle équestre [Le Chevalier de Saint-George, An African at the Court: Concertos and Symphonies of the Spectacle of Bartabas, Academy of Equestrian Spectacle]
               Assai 222662 (2004)



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AfriClassical.com in the Media


          Table of Contents

1 New York Times
  2 Michigan Messenger
  3 Current
  4 Michigan Radio
  5 Colorlines
  6 Detroit Public TV
  7 CBC Radio
  8 Philadelphia Sunday Sun
  9 Teaching Tolerance
  10 JBHE Weekly Bulletin
  11 WDET-FM Detroit
  12 Chicken Bones
  13 Washington Post
  14 Metro Times
  15 Maine Sunday Telegram
  16 Seattle Times



                               John Blanke
                     Royal Trumpeter
            Westminster Tournament, 1511
                      (Copyright BBC)


1 New York Times
Apr. 2, 2009  "Poet's Muse: A Footnote to Beethoven"; Felicia R. Lee writes: Rita Dove, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former United States poet laureate, has now breathed life into the story of that virtuoso, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, in her new book, “Sonata Mulattica” (W. W. Norton). The narrative, a collection of poems subtitled “A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play,” intertwines fact and fiction to flesh out Bridgetower, the son of a Polish-German mother and an Afro-Caribbean father.
While Bridgetower failed to find a prominent place in the musical canon, his story is nevertheless recorded in the major musical histories, like The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, as well as on Internet sites like  AfriClassical.com and its companion, africlassical.blogspot.com, which document black contributions to classical music.
“Rita Dove does a wonderful job of humanizing the story,” William J. Zwick, the creator of AfriClassical.com, said of “Sonata Mulattica.” The “Kreutzer” Sonata is one of Beethoven’s most well known, he said, and shows that a work that has been valuable for centuries “was done to show the genius of a black composer.”

2 Michigan Messenger
Nov. 20, 2007  Celeste Whiting writes:
"It isn't right for people to grow up thinking that classical music is all white men in wigs." These are the words of Bill Zick, who wants people to know that minorities played an important role in the history of classical music.

Zick's AfriClassical.com website documents the history of minorities composing and performing classical music. His work combines a love of classical music with a commitment to racial equality.

3 Current
April 2007 
 Kyle Norris writes: AfriClassical.com launched in 2000 and has become the premiere website of its kind. It features in-depth biographies of musicians and composers, black history quizzes, and over one-hundred audio clips. (Listen to H. Leslie Adams’ “Since You Went Away,” sung by Darryl Taylor, for a lush, melodic awakening.)

Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma discovered the website several years ago and signed its guest book. De Lerma and Zick began an ongoing correspondence and now share their knowledge with one another on a regular basis. Zick maintains the website from his home base in Ann Arbor. He wants to keep the information that is already posted as up to date as possible, but he says he will not expand the site to include new profiles.

Professor de Lerma speaks with the utmost regard for the website, and for what he calls Zick’s sophisticated efforts. “This website has no competition. If anyone is interested in the information Bill has, they won’t find a better source.”

4 Michigan Radio
Jan. 26, 2007  The Arts page of the Michigan Radio website provides the
audio and transcript of a story by Arts Reporter Jennifer Guerra which has this caption: "
AfriClassical Music  Classical music is often associated with white, European composers. One website sets out to highlight the contributions people of color have made to classical music."

5 Colorlines
Jan./Feb. 2007  An article by Ana Clark is entitled: Classical Music: Black
and Latino musicians hope to change the image of the art form".  "William Zick, a white man, has made it his full-time work to represent Blacks in classical music as a historical and global phenomenon at the encyclopedic website www.africlassical.com"

6 Detroit Public TV
Feb. 2006 & Feb. 2007  The website of Detroit Public TV features a page on Black History Month.  Under Sites to See it lists: "AfriClassical.com - A
Resource on Black History & Classical Music".

7 CBC Radio
Feb. 2006  The CBC Radio Two program "Music & Company", hosted by Tom Allen, posted a Black History Month Link to AfriClassical.com at its Website: "
This site was launched in 2000 as a nonprofit educational venture promoting awareness of African Heritage in Classical Music. It features news, history essays and audio links - a must-visit for classical music fans who want to know more about Black and African contributions to the genre."

8 Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Jan. 29, 2006  Under the title "New Website Features Interesting Black History Facts", the paper wrote: "After years of celebrations of Black History Month, it is still not widely known that Black composers and musicians have been making enduring contributions to classical music for centuries."

9 Teaching Tolerance
Spring, 2006  The magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center called AfriClassical.com: "Harmony and Heritage: Black History and Classical Music".  It was listed as one of seven "Must visit destinations on the Internet". 

10 JBHE Weekly Bulletin
Jan. 19, 2006  The Weekly Bulletin of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education published an article entitled "New Online Resource on Black History in Classical Music".  It began:  "
A new online resource on blacks’ contributions to classical music has recently been launched at http://www.AfriClassical.com. The site is the project of William J. Zick, a white man who has retired from positions as an administrative law judge and as a training officer for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights."

11 WDET-FM Detroit
Dec. 28, 2005 
Listen to audio of the 8-minute interview (mp3).  "WDET'S Craig Fahle recently spoke with Bill Zick, Webmaster for www.africlassical.com.  His website has become one of the premiere resources for those interested in Black composers of Classical Music"

12 Chicken Bones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African- American Themes
Posted Mar. 5, 2005  Amin Sharif writes:  "Africlassical is an extraordinary experience in black music.  That it was constructed by a cool white cat (Bill Zick) makes it all amazing.  Well done, Bill!"

13 Washington Post
Feb. 25, 2005
 Donna Britt profiles The Imani Winds, an African American classical quintet:  "The group is part of a long, little-known tradition of black classical musicians and composers, many of whose bios can be found at africlassical.com, a vibrant Web site created by Bill Zick, a retired Michigan lawyer." 

14 Metro Times
Feb. 9, 2005
  "Rhapsody in black: Locally produced Web site explores classical composers of color," is a feature story by Khary Kimani Turner.  It mentions several of the people profiled at the site, then adds: "Zick's efforts have been recognized by some of the Detroit area's foremost proponents of ethnic inclusion in the classical arts.  Aaron Dworkin is the founder and president of the Sphinx Organization, a multifaceted group dedicated to encouraging classical music training among young people of color ("Mystery of the Sphinx," Metro Times, Feb. 26, 2003).  He says Zick's site is the most comprehensive that he knows.  'Unfortunately, there are very few sites with information about black contributions to classical music,' Dworkin says.  Zick's site 'has a lot of information.  It's a fantastic thing, and a resource that should be supported.'

15 Maine Sunday Telegram
Jan. 23, 2005
Excerpts from the Classical Beat column by Christopher Hyde:
A column last year mentioned the huge number of musical works inspired by Maine’s great poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an outpouring unmatched by settings of Whitman or other runners-up.  One of those inspired by “Hiawatha” was the African-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Taylor first become prominent in 1898 because of two works: his Ballade in A-Minor, composed for the Three Choirs Festival at the suggestion of Sir Edward Elgar; and “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast,” a setting of that section of Longfellow’s popular poem.  Coleridge-Taylor conducted the first of hundreds of performances throughout England and the work, for about two decades, was one of the most popular pieces of choral music in the world.
I am indebted for this tidbit of information to William J. Zick, whose website on the contributions of Africa toward western classical music, www.africlassical.com, was first mentioned in this column in 2003. It seems appropriate to revisit it at the beginning of Black History Month in the U.S. and Jamaica.

The site has expanded tremendously in two years, and is now accessible in both French and English. The translation to French may have something to do with the Association of the Friends of the Chevalier St. George on the Island of Guadeloupe. St. George, born to a plantation owner and a slave on that island, became France’s premiere swordsman just before the Revolution, as well as a major violinist and composer, known as “The Black Mozart.” Many of his works are available on CD, and a DVD about his fantastic life, “The Black Mozart,” was produced by the Canadian Broadcasting System in 2003.  It has recently become commercially available from the CBC. (Links to sources of recordings and information are available on Zick’s web site.)  Probably the best introduction to St. George’s work is “Violin Concertos of Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries,” with Rachel Barton (Cedille 90000-035). The recording also includes a work by Coleridge-Taylor and St. George’s contemporary Meude-Monpas, who revised Rousseau’s “Theory of Music.”  St. George was a good friend of Alexandre Dumas (Pere), who was the also the victim of the same anti-black laws agitated for by French plantation owners.  He led a regiment of 1,000 during the French Revolution, and later spent some time in what is now Haiti, although whether he was part of that nation’s successful revolt against the French is unknown.
There’s a recording of Haitian classical piano music illustrated on Zick’s site that I want badly.  Just as St. George was known as “The Black Mozart,” The Haitian pianist and composer Lamothe was sometimes called “A Black Chopin.”  I began thinking about nicknames, intended to be compliments, that wind up as pejoratives.  Why isn’t Mozart known as “The White St. George?”  Mozart apparently stole one of his tunes. Just asking...

16 Seattle Times
Jan. 19, 2003
  "African-American site hits missing notes of history" by Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times  music critic:  Everybody knows about the huge debts owed to African-American musicians in the jazz and popular music genres.  And almost everyone could name at least one great African-American opera singer of the past century, from Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price to two artists in Seattle Opera's current production of "Don Pasquale" (soprano Harolyn Blackwell and tenor Lawrence Brownlee. 

"But take another step backward into classical-music history, and black composers/performers virtually disappear.  An eye-opening new Web site, however, makes an excellent start at addressing this issue by presenting a wide array of musicians of African descent whose contributions haven't received enough public notice."  The site, www.africlassical.com, also offers a long list of compact discs - complete with photos of the CD covers - that give readers a chance to hear the works composed (and in many cases played) by black musicians.

The site was compiled with the following philosophical statement: "The idea behind the website is that the lives and music of composers and musicians of African descent prove that people of color have made enduring contributions to society throughout history, even under the most difficult conditions."

Webmaster William Zick notes the reason for this compilation of resources: "Few people know that people of African descent have been composing and performing fine classical music since Mozart's time."

Many, though not all, of the site's musicians are noted in such standard reference books as the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music, but this is the first comprehensive site to pull together a broad spectrum of black musical references in the classical genre.

A few details might surprise even regular concertgoers who know a lot about music:

• George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860), of West Indian and Polish/German parentage, toured as a child violin prodigy who played for English royalty and became a protégé of the Prince of Wales.  In 1802, he visited his mother in Dresden, and in Vienna met Beethoven. With Beethoven at the piano, Bridgetower gave a concert May 24, 1803, which included the world premiere of Beethoven's famous "Kreutzer" Sonata (Op. 47).  We'd be calling this work the "Bridgetower" Sonata to this day, if it weren't for a disagreement between the composer and the violinist (over a woman, according to Bridgetower).  Beethoven then substituted Kreutzer for Bridgetower as the sonata's dedicatee. Little is known about Bridgetower's last three decades in Europe.

• Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1739-1799): Born on the island of Guadaloupe, the son of a slave, the Chevalier was a composer and violinist who also was famous for his fencing, riding, dancing, swimming and skating.  Little is known about his early violin training, but he made his violin debut with the Paris Concert des Amateurs in 1772, and the following year he became musical director/leader of that group. He composed several operas; founded the ensemble for which Haydn's Paris symphonies were commissioned; toured in London and moved back to France to become captain of the national guard and head of a corps of light troops. Among his musical output are symphonies, operas, violin concertos and string quartets.

These are only two of the scores of musicians encountered on this Web site, which has four main focal points: "Black History and Classical Music," "Composers of African Descent," "Musicians of African Descent" and pages devoted to individual composers and performers.

Some of the life histories are particularly fascinating, jumping from country to country.  Consider Edmond Dede (1827-1903), a New Orleans Creole of color who started out as a clarinetist, later becoming a violin prodigy.  He moved to Mexico to escape white hostility against African-American musicians, then returned to work as a cigar maker in New Orleans until he earned enough money to travel to Belgium, then to France.  He studied composition at the Paris Conservatoire with Halevy, a teacher of Gounod; settled in Bordeaux; married a French woman and produced a son (Eugene Arcade Dede), who also became a classical composer.

The elder Dede served for 27 years as conductor of the orchestra at the Theatre l'Alcazar, and also conducted light music at the Folies Bordelaises. Dede returned only once to New Orleans, where his performances were a success, though he encountered "implacable prejudice" at home (a term immortalized in his song "Patriotisme").  He died in 1903 in Paris, and many of his compositions rest in the National Library there.

Not surprisingly, black women composers are few in number — a double minority status that must have made opportunities impossibly small for all but the most gifted.  Florence Beatrice Smith Price must have found many obstacles in her musical training and career: Born in Little Rock in 1887, she nonetheless published her first composition while in high school.  She went on to graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music as a pianist and organ teacher, and to teach at two colleges in Little Rock and Atlanta.

After her marriage and move to Chicago, Price found herself in the unenviable position of being a single black mother in the 1920s and '30s, so impoverished that she had to move in with one of her piano students. Yet she still produced what researcher Rosalyn Story calls "an impressive body of vocal work for all voices, and cultivated a budding passion for symphonic music." It was in the latter genre that she found her greatest success, becoming the first African-American woman to have a composition performed by a major symphony orchestra: Her Symphony in E Minor was premiered at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Frederick Stock.  (That work is recorded on Koch International Classics.)

One of the most helpful aspects of this Web site is the long list of available recordings, many of them on the budget Naxos label (where you'll find an assortment of Dede's works). The CDs' numbers and dates are also given, a help in ordering them online or in person from CD stores.


This page was last updated on March 5, 2022

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