UPDATE: The winner is…Jennifer Wilck!
Sometimes, outrage motivates you. Sometimes, pleasant surprise. My African-American women photo collection started because, out of thirty-six history cards of famous African-Americans, only six were women. My discovery of classical composer Florence Price was a pleasant surprise.
I was a classical music fan from a young age. My mother had a five-record collection of Strauss waltzes that I probably wore out on our old hi-fi. Then playing pieces like the Poet and Peasant’s Overture on clarinet in junior high school seeded a love for classical music deep in my heart. I learned all I could about European composers like Debussy and Stravinsky and Vaughn Williams. As I got older I developed a love for the classical works of American composers like Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein. Now, thanks to my year-long quest, first for quotes on democracy, then music and songs to keep hope alive through 2020 and now into 2021, my musical horizons have broadened yet again. Swimming in the pool of African-American classical music and jazz composers during Black History month, I discovered African-American female composers.
I’ve been swept up away by the classical works of Margaret Bonds, Zenobia Powell Perry, and Undine Smith Moore. I learned of modern works by present-day women like Valerie Coleman, Valerie Capers, Pamela Z, and Hannah Kendall. I’ve been floating along in the wonder of expanded knowledge about women musicians with whom I was already familiar, women like Hazel Scott and Eva Jessye.
Learning about the life and work of Florence Price has been one of the pleasant surprises of 2021. On my favorite classical radio station alone I’ve been introduced to no fewer than seventeen of this amazing woman’s work. Her titles range from the predictable, Sonata in E Minor, Symphony No. 1 in E Minor to the poetic, Memory Mist, Moon Bridge, On Quiet Lake to the whimsical, Goblin and the Mosquito. I’d always known about the seminal event of Eleanor Roosevelt enabling Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the Revolution wouldn’t let her sing at Constitution Hall. But I only learned this year that Anderson closed her recital with Price’s My Soul’s Been Anchored in de Lord.
Born in 1887, Florence came from a family of firsts. Her father was Little Rock, Arkansas’s first black dentist. She had her first piano recital at the age of four and at age eleven wrote her first musical composition. At fourteen she went to study at the New England Conservatory for three years. By 1927 she had divorced an abusive husband and moved to Chicago where her work found support from the music director of the Chicago Symphony. In 1932 she won first prize in the Wannamaker music contest. She became the first African American woman to have her work performed by a major American symphony when on June 15th, 1933 the Chicago Symphony performed her Symphony No. 1 in E minor. As a kid when I was learning about Stravinsky and Copland and Bernstein, I should also have been learning about Florence Price. But better late than never.
I’m always moved when I learn of women who achieved as Florence did, even though they didn’t receive all the accolades they deserved in their lifetime. So for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments the name of an unsung woman you feel the world should know more about.
Better To Marry Than To Burn
Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…
A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.
Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.
Excerpt from Better to Marry than to Burn…
Caesar looked at Queen. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. She swallowed hard, unnerved by the sight. Her lips trembled.
Reverend Warren smiled. “Caesar, you may kiss your bride.”
Kiss? Queen flinched. There’d be no kissing in this marriage. She’d promised to be his wife for two years with sex provided at agreed upon intervals. At the end of two years that requirement would end, and she’d be free to live as she chose. She could go anywhere she pleased, especially with the respectability of missus before her name and Caesar’s promised severance. No. This coupling made them business partners. Business partners did not kiss.
She extended her hand to seal their arrangement. He returned the handshake, but instead of releasing her, his too rough fingers imprisoned hers and pulled her to him. With his other hand, he captured the back of her head and secured her mouth to his.
A squeal of surprise parted her lips. His thick tongue swept into the shelter of her mouth. The assault ambushed her with pleasure and vanquished her resistance.
Her hands rose, as if of their own volition, and pressed against his chest. The firm muscle beneath his shirt coaxed her hands to linger, to explore— however discreetly—the muscle beneath her palms and fingertips.
Caesar broke off the kiss.
The embrace didn’t last more than a few seconds, but Queen swayed, robbed of reason and resentment.