||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.