William Grant Still

  • William Grant Still (May 11, 1895 – December 3, 1978) was an African-American classical composer who wrote more than 150 compositions. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. He is often referred to as “the Dean” of African-American composers.

    In 1918, Still joined the United States Navy to serve in World War I. Between 1919 and 1921, he worked as an arranger for W. C. Handy’s band and later played in the pit orchestra for Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s musical, Shuffle Along. Later in the 1920s, Still served as the arranger of Yamekraw, a “Negro Rhapsody” composed by the noted Harlem stride pianist, James P. Johnson. His initial hiring by Paul Whiteman took place in early November 1929.

    In the 1930s Still worked as an arranger of popular music, writing for Willard Robison’s Deep River Hour, and Paul Whiteman’s Old Gold Show, both popular NBC Radio broadcasts. In 1936, Still conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra as the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra.

    In 1934, Still received his first Guggenheim Fellowship; he started work on the first of his eight operas, Blue Steel. In 1949 his opera Troubled Island, originally completed in 1939, about Jean Jacques Dessalines and Haiti, was performed by the New York City Opera. It was the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major company.

    Still moved to Los Angeles, in the 1930s, where he arranged music for films. These included Pennies from Heaven (the 1936 film starring Bing Crosby and Madge Evans) and Lost Horizon (the 1937 film starring Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt and Sam Jaffe). ForLost Horizon, he arranged the music of Dimitri Tiomkin. Still was also hired to arrange the music for the 1943 film Stormy Weather, but left the assignment after a few weeks due to artistic disagreements.

    In 1955 he conducted the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra and became the first African American to conduct a major orchestra in the Deep South. Still’s works were performed internationally by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the BBC Orchestra.

    He was the first African American to have an opera performed on national United States television when A Bayou Legend, completed in 1941, premiered on PBS in June 1981. Additionally, he was the recording manager of the Black Swan Phonograph Company.


  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    Choral
    392-00305 The Blind Man-Satb
    African American Spiritual(arr.)
    392-00305
    392-00306 The Blind Man-Sab
    African American Spiritual(arr.)
    392-00306
    392-00307 The Blind Man-Ssa
    African American Spiritual(arr.)
    392-00307
    392-00311 Ev’Ry Time I Feel The Spirit(arr.) 392-00311
    392-00312 Ev’Ry Time I Feel The Spirit-Ssa(arr.) 392-00312
    392-00340 Ev’Ry Time I Feel The Spirit-Satb(arr.) 392-00340
    121-40031 Here’s One
    For Voice and Piano (Or Guitar)(arr.)
    121-40031 3:00
    322-40037 Here’s One
    For S.A.T.B., and Soprano Solo (Or Divisi) With Piano Accomp.(arr.)
    322-40037 SATB
    392-00331 Toward Distant Shores 392-00331
    392-00958 We Sang Our Songs
    (The Jubilee Singers: 1871-1971)
    392-00958
    392-00332 Where Shall I Be?-Satb(arr.) 392-00332
    392-00333 Where Shall I Be? -SAB(arr.) 392-00333 SAB
    392-00334 Where Shall I Be? -SSA(arr.) 392-00334
    ET9 Sahdji
    For Ballet, Chorus and Bass Soloist
    ET9 Mixed Chorus
    Orchestra
    21436 Archaic Ritual 21436 20:30 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    21437 Darker America 21437 9:00 2 2(E.H.) 2 2 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Str.
    15144 Dismal Swamp 15144 12:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    21439 From the Black Belt
    Seven Little Pieces
    21439 12:00 2 1 3(B.Cl.) 1 – 3 3 0 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    O5343 Festive Overture O5343 10:00 Orchestra
    21438 Festive Overture 21438 10:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    ET24 Finale ET24
    C117 From the Black Belt
    Seven Little Pieces (Some Humorous,Some Sentimantal) for Chamber Orchestra
    C117 Chamber Orchestra
    SC48 Kaintuck’ SC48 Orchestra
    21440 Kaintuck 21440 13:00 Solo Pno.; 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(dbl.B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    21441 La Guiablesse 21441 18:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    21442 The Little Song that Wanted to be a Symphony 21442 15:00 Narrator, solo soprano (2), alto voices; 2(dbl. Picc.) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2 2 – 3 3 2 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    ET25F The Little Song That Wanted To Be A Symphony ET25F Orchestra
    21443 Los Alnados de Espana 21443 12:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    21444 Pages from Negro History 21444 12:00 Narrator; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Perc. Pno.(or Hp.) Str.
    15145 The Peaceful Land 15145 10:00 2 2 2 2 – 3 2 2 1; Hp. Str.
    CY754F Sahdji
    For Ballet, Chorus and Bass Soloist
    CY754F full score
    21445 Sahdji 21445 45:00 Solo bass voice; SATB chorus; 2(Fl.1-2 dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 4(Eb Cl., B.Cl.) 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    21446 Sahdji (short version) 21446 Solo bass voice; SATB chorus; 2(Fl.1-2 dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 4(Eb Cl., B.Cl.) 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    21447 Serenade 21447 9:20 2(dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2 – 3 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    21448 Suite for Violin and Orchestra 21448 15:00 Solo Vln.; 2 2(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    21449 Symphony No. 2 in G minor (“Song of a New Race”) 21449 25:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(dbl.B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    CY2061F Symphony No. 2 CY2061F 25:00
    Y2062 Symphony No. 3 Y2062
    21450 Symphony No. 3 21450 25:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(dbl.B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    Y2447 Symphony No. 4 Y2447 27:30
    21451 Symphony No. 4 (“Autochthonous”) 21451 27:30 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
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    Chamber Ensemble
    W1867 Incantation and Dance W1867 Oboe, Piano
    ATF146 Solos for Oboe ATF146 Oboe, Piano

  • Festive Overture
    for Orchestra
    Sahdji
    for Solo Bass Voice, Chorus, and Orchestra
    Suite for Violin and Orchestra
    Symphony No. 2 in G minor “Song of a New Race”
    for Orchestra
    Symphony No. 3
    for Orchestra
    Symphony No. 4 “Autochthonous”
    for Orchestra