William Grant Still Patterns
William Grant Still Patterns Program Notes
William Grant Still Patterns. Although the Still family has deep Philadelphian roots, William Grant Still was born in Mississippi, but spent his childhood in Little Rock, Arkansas, in its well-established artistic and intellectual Black community. There, he was a few years younger than his lifelong friend, Florence Beatrice Price. An advanced musician from a young age, teaching himself numerous instruments, he went to Ohio for studies at Wilberforce University, an HBCU, then went to Oberlin Conservatory. His talents were recognized, leading to further studies with Chadwick and the French composer Varèse. After work for W. C. Handy (“Father of the Blues,”) and service in World War I, Still worked extensively in New York, mostly in Harlem, but as an incredibly profligate composer and then increasingly as a conductor as well. He composed hundreds of works, including symphonies, concertos, ballet music, chamber music, and operas. His compositions were performed across the United States, and also by the Berlin Philharmonic and other international ensembles.
Still composed this work quite late in his career, when he was living in Los Angeles. The 1960 premiere was conducted by Still with an orchestra of young musicians, including Michael Tilson Thomas on Oboe 2/English Horn. It is very likely that today’s performance is the East Coast premiere.
I. Magic Crystal
II. A Lone Teardrop
III. Rain Pearls
IV. Tranquil Cove
William Grant Still
Born: May 11, 1895, Woodville, MS
Died: December 3, 1978, Los Angeles, CA