Composer’s ‘Langston’s Lot’ song cycles to be performed March 15
It’s a collaboration and friendship that dates back 20 years. New Music Live: “Langston’s Lot” with Doug McConnell and Friends is to reunite the Heidelberg University music professor and composer with former colleagues in an upcoming concert featuring the poetry of Hughes and his portrayals of black life in America.
“For years, I’ve enjoyed the poetry of Langston Hughes,” said McConnell, professor of composition and theory in Heidelberg’s School of Music & Theatre. So he began studying Hughes’ life and his poetry collections with the idea of setting to song a series of texts that capture his essence and spirit, along with the influences of jazz, blues and gospel music in his life.
McConnell composed the first of his two song cycles, “Langston’s Lot,” in 1996 when former faculty colleagues and friends Gail Levinsky and Jackie Edwards-Henry, then teaching with McConnell at Mississippi State University, commissioned the piece. It was written for tenor voice, alto saxophone and piano.
“Langston’s Lot” and its sequel, “Langston’s Lot: Song is a Strong Thing,” which McConnell composed in 2015-16 specifically for female voice, are to comprise the program for the New Music Live concert at 7 p.m. March 15 in Brenneman Music Hall. The concert is to bring together Levinsky on saxophone and Edwards-Henry on piano, along with vocal soloists Roderick George (tenor) and Marian Murphy Powell (soprano).
“To me, this is a dream program because we’ll have both cycles on the same program on the same evening, and that won’t happen too often,” McConnell said.
Bringing an additional level of depth and understanding to the program are Heidelberg theater students Austin Buckhalter and Pree Bryant, who are to read the Hughes texts that form the basis of both song cycles prior to the performance.
The soloists for New Music Live are to bring to the Heidelberg stage an eclectic range of performance experiences:
• Levinsky is a professor of music at Susquehanna University and a frequent solo performer, clinician and author. In addition to teaching, she is a solo performer whose CD, “Tipping Point: Music for Saxophone and other Voices,” explores the saxophone in a variety of chamber music settings.
• A solo and collaborative pianist, Edwards-Henry continues to teach piano at Mississippi State. She has performed extensively around the country and internationally. She completed two CDs, “Saxophone and Other Voices” (with Levinsky) and “Contemporary Czech Music for Flute and Piano.”
• George is known for his performances on the concert and operatic stages throughout the U.S. and abroad, including solo roles in Handel’s “Messiah,” Bach’s “Magnificat,” Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” Mozart’s “Requiem” and Beethoven’s Ninth.
• Murphy Powell is a versatile singer and theatrical artist known for her work on the stage and in the studio. She is a veteran of national Broadway tours with a favorite role of Cosette in “Les Miserables” and Christine in “Phantom of the Opera.” She also has released three solo recordings.
• McConnell, the “Langston’s Lot” composer, joined the Heidelberg faculty in 2000. His compositions have been performed throughout the U.S. and internationally, including Canada, England, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Russia. McConnell has written for a variety of performing mediums but especially enjoys writing for voices. Additionally, he has composed for theatre, including incidental music for several plays and two operatic works.
New Music Live is free. For more information, call the School of Music & Theatre at (419) 448-2073.