Through Moanin’ Pines – H. T. Burleigh

August 27, 2020: As I absorb the events of this week, I am filled with sadness and anger. It is hard to find words to express the mourning and distress, and I cannot imagine the pain felt by the black community; and because of my own privilege, I don’t need to – I can walk away if I want to, confident that me, my family, my daughter, we are safe, and don’t need to fear the threat of violence from the forces that purport to maintain order and safety.

Since June, I have been working to incorporate into my repertoire works by BIPOC classical composers, who have been doomed to obscurity by the racist biases of the classical music institution. This piece, Through Moanin’ Pines, is composed by Harry T. Burleigh. Learning about Burleigh, and his accomplishments, I was very interested to learn that his baritone voice caught the attention of Antonin Dvorak, who asked Burleigh to sing and teach him traditional African-American spirituals – the melodic vocabulary of these spirituals would find themselves in Dvorak’s later compositions. Dvorak: “In the negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music.” I have been coming back to this piece frequently recently, struck by its duality of mourning, and of hope. Black lives matter.

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