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Harry T. BurleighFrom the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance$
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Jean E. Snyder

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039942

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039942.001.0001

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Bringing Spirituals to the Concert Stage

Bringing Spirituals to the Concert Stage

“A music of the future out of the music of the past”

(p.298) 16. Bringing Spirituals to the Concert Stage
Harry T. Burleigh

Jean E. Snyder

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on the popularity of Harry T. Burleigh's spirituals in recitals and other concerts. Burleigh published his first solo arrangement of spirituals from 1911 to 1916, at a time when the tide of interest in African American folk music, especially spirituals, was gathering momentum. At least nineteen white American composers joined the stream. Black composers also produced compositions reflecting their folk heritage during these years. From the 1916–1917 concert season, when his solo arrangement of “Deep River” became the hit of the recital season, Burleigh's role as pioneer arranger and interpreter of spirituals began to eclipse his role as recital singer and art song composer. This chapter explores how the recurring controversy over the origins of African American music made Burleigh a spokesman for the uniquely expressive gifts of African Americans who, he argued, had created America's first genuine folk music. In particular, it considers Burleigh's view that the spirituals were the primary artistic contribution of African Americans. It also discusses the influence of Edward MacDowell on Burleigh's movement toward arranging spirituals as art songs.

Keywords:   spirituals, Harry T. Burleigh, concerts, recitals, folk music, composers, Deep River, Edward MacDowell, art songs, African American music

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