Still Bill

December 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Recently at work I came across a handwritten note dated 1986 from Verna Arvey, the widow of William Grant Still (1895-1978), suggesting that the San Francisco Symphony undertake the world premiere performance of her husband’s last work, The Path of Glory (1962). For whatever reason, the Orchestra declined, and so did everyone else evidently, until 1990 when the Grand Forks Symphony finally took it on. The work turned 50 this year, and seems to remain unrecorded despite its promising subject matter- “the glory and fall of the Aztec empire,” (according to the Google Books snippet of William Grant Still: A Bio-Biography) and a quick 15 minute performance time. The libretto, for baritone and narrator, was written by Arvey herself.

A quick WorldCat search for the score to Path of Glory reveals library holdings at University of Arkansas, University of Ilinois, University of Florida and, of course, NY Public. all great places to start the process of resurrecting this final, nearly unknown work.

The above-linked WGS site has much information on the composer and his legacy. It’s hard not to be interested in an American twentieth century composer who worked with Eubie Blake and studied with Edgard Varèse. Here is the Centennial Celebration Orchestra, conducted by John McLaughlin Williams, performing William Grant Still’s Archaic Ritual which premiered in 1949 at the Hollywood Bowl. 

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