Clarence Cameron White
Front cover of 5 Songs, Op. 39 by White Five Songs, Op. 39 was composed in 1946, well after Clarence Cameron White left the Hampton Institute. In his earlier works, the adaptation of negro spirituals into his writing was much more evident as he often used the terms "based on" or "paraphrase of" to indicate which spiritual was being adapted. In the case of the Five Songs, the tone and mood of the music in each song affirmatively follows the tradition of the nineteenth century art song, but the texts reflect the tone and mood of a negro spiritual-- or, more to the point, negro spirituality. This set of songs demonstrates Clarence Cameron White's interest in continuing the Western music tradition in which he was trained while incorporating the strength, courage, devotion, supplication, and depth gained by living the African American experience. In Five Songs, Op. 39, the vocal line dominates the ensemble while the piano, in an explicit supportive role throughout, provides color and ambience. This lovely set of songs adeptly and sensitively reconciles the art song and negro spiritual idioms.
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