Yesterday afternoon, in the Rankin Chapel at Howard University, pianist Sharon Barron gave a small preview of the week-long National Black Music Colloquium and Competition, which will begin next Friday at the Kennedy Center. If Barron's recital is a fair sample, the week should be both lively and enlightening, with expert playing by the winners of regional music competitions as well as master classes and informal discussions by some of the nation's leading black musicians.
Sharon Barron, a Texan and winner of the NBMCC's Southwest regional piano competition, played with impressive musicianship, a program neatly divided between classical European composers (Beethoven and Chopin) and modern black American composers (Ulysses Kay, John W. Work and George Walker).
Barron is still a very young pianist, still growing -- but in yesterday's program she showed solid achievement as well as great potential. The Four Inventions of Ulysses Kay are brief but tightly packed with technical and interpretive challenges, and she met them all well, making the melodic lines sing, crashing out bass chords with great power and etching the lines of counterpoint with examplary clarity.
The same virtues were even more apparant in Walker's Sonata No. 2, which was in many ways the most impressive music on the program. The depth, the technical inventiveness and the wide-ranging moods of this music are probably not yet fully appreciated -- but if many in the younger generation are responding to the music as fully as Barron, we may expect to see Walker receiving his due in the years ahead.
Walker will be one of the 17 black composers taking part in the Kennedy Center colloguium, as part of a series of "Meet the Black Composers" sessions which will be held at 3:30 each weekday afternoon. In the mornings and early afternoons, the young musicians will be given master classes by such artists as Leon Bates and Natalie Hinderas for pianists, Claus Adam and Felix Galimir for string players. There also will be final competitions among the 14 young musicians who have won regional prizes. Judging by yesterday's recital, that competition will be on a very high level. j