Thursday, May 8, 2014

R. Nathaniel Dett's Oratorio to be Heard, Uninterrupted

When WQXR and NPR Music present the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus's performance of R. Nathaniel Dett's The Ordering of Moses at Carnegie Hall Friday, there will be one significant difference from its first airing: it should be free of interruptions.

Just why the 50-minute oratorio was not heard in full on NBC radio in 1937 is a story steeped in allegations of racial censorship. Dett (1882-1943) was a black Canadian-born American composer who earned degrees at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music. He later studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, the revered teacher of composers from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass. Dett called his mission "the emancipation of Negro music" and cited Dvorak's promotion of black spirituals and folk songs as a strong influence on his own works. more