Afrocentric music site starts with inspiration
When one thinks of classical music, thoughts immediately turn to historical European composers like Mozart and Bach. During the past decade, Burling Listening Room supervisor Randye Jones has pushed to bring recognition to the African American singers and composers who've contributed to the repertoire of vocal music, and now she is expanding those voices to web radio.
Jones first became interested in classical music during her early years of vocal training, and said she was surprised and pleased to learn that there were African Americans who performed and composed classical music.
"Having developed an interest in classical music myself, and knowing there were others who shared my cultural background who had also been successful at it, I wanted to find out who they were," she said.
Jones began researching the history of African American artists in classical music, and collected copies of the recordings along the way. As her collection and research grew, she also began to look at ways to share it with others. She launched the Web site Afrocentric Voices in 1998 with biographies, bibliographies, and photos, but due to copyright concerns couldn't share some of her recordings. Last year, she learned about Live 365, a Web site that allows users to create their own radio broadcasts online, and decided that it was perfect venue.
"The idea of being able to create a radio station that makes these recordings available is just something that seemed like a natural outgrowth of what I'd been doing otherwise," she says.
Jones launched the Afrocentric Voices webcast on Dec. 5. The station features a new set of recordings each month centered on a theme, and Jones updates the site regularly throughout the month with new songs. Much of the music comes from her personal collection of over 300 recordings.
The music on Afrocentric Voices runs the gamut from historic vocalists such as Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price to modern performers like Kathleen Battle and Denyce Graves. Jones includes a mixture of well-known songs and rarities, including several recordings she has come across in her research that would not otherwise be available to the public.
"Two of the rarer ones that come to mind are a 78 rpm recording of a singer named Dorothy Maynor, who was a contemporary of Marian Anderson's," Jones says. "I also acquired the 1950s soundtrack from Porgy and Bess, which starred Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier. The recording features Robert McFerrin -- the first African American male to sing a major role on the Metropolitan Opera stage -- who sang the role of Porgy for the motion picture.""
Jones hopes that Afrocentric Voices will encourage listeners to delve deeper into the body of classical music by African American artists.
"Beyond works composed by European composers, there is some wonderful music that I believe has great value and great interest, and certainly is worthy of the opportunity to be heard, performed and appreciated," she says. "And I'm hoping to play a part in making that happen."