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William Grant Still: Highway One

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Audio CD, March 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

It, regrettably, comes as a surprise to many, including highly informed and well-trained musicians that among the most important of the compositions of William Grant Still are his several operas. (NOTE: The Eileen Southern Biographical Dictionary of African American and African Musicians of 1982 lists six operas, but in fact there are nine). In addition to Highway One on this recording, there are also the operas: Blue Street, Troubled Island, A Bayou Legend, A Southern Interlude, Costaso, Mota, The Pillar, and Minette Fontaine. Judith Anne Still writes: "I will say this, my father had three loves in his life, in this order of importance: the Creator, his family, and the world of opera. He wanted most of all to be known as a composer of operas of great merit. He worked towards this goal with all his heart and mind, from the age of 14 until he became ill in the early 1970’s, for 75 years. Most opera companies in the 20th century would not do the operas of William ! Grant Still because of his color. The fact that Still operas were not done, while Porgy was done, broke the composer’s heart. There is much to be accomplished by way of justification. I am grateful to my parent’s for dedicating this opera to me and my family, and to Louise Toppin, Philip Brunelle and VIDEMUS for putting their enormous talents and energies into this project. Bravo to the immortals who have opened the road to realizing the long-ago dream of a kind, noble and magnificently gifted man."

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Highway One

Product Details

  • Performer: Louise Toppin Robert Honeysucker, Pamela Dillard, Ray Wade
  • Orchestra: St. Olaf Orchestra
  • Conductor: Philip Brunelle
  • Composer: William Grant Still
  • Audio CD (March 1, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Albany Records
  • ASIN: B0007RI70Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,977 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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The title of this review says it all. Other than George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", which is not so widely performed or recorded by the way, operas (especially those written by black composers) that feature the lives of Afro-Americans are not widely known, let alone recorded. The reasons for this void are not so difficult to fathom, unfortunately, irrespective of the immense talents composers like William Grant Still possesses. To put it bluntly, politics, fashion, profitability, marketability, & reputations are in some respects plausible explanations for why a plethora of worthwhile and even masterful musical creations are not well performed at major concert halls and venues (let alone recorded particularly by major record labels). And when the issue of race and the stereotypes that comes with it come into play, then those explanations are not only more plausible, but also a reality for a lot of artists deserving of much more than what they're getting as we speak. The election of Barrack Obama as America's first Black President is by itself a milestone, but the issues of race and race relations remain delicate and points of contention. Hence, the huge absences of black leaders especially in sports, the corporate world, and the arts are testaments to this, and until we take risks, open our minds, and take ownership of our prejudices and our biases, this problem will continue to linger and linger on (in America and abroad, as many minorities in France would remind us all).

Going back to the music (for a moment), Still's "Highway One, USA" is one of those worthwhile musical creations, and a highly melodic and soulful one at that.
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