"My soul has grown deep like the rivers," sang LeRor Dorsey in a bass voice equally deep. The words of Langston Hughes, subtly set to music by Howard Swanson, whose cadences sometimes had a flavor of spirituals, sometimes of the operatic stage, summed up the theme of yesterday's faculty recital at Howard University: "Black History: A Musical Tribute."
Mattiwilda Dobbs (in what was probably the most electrifying part of the program) added another dimension to the theme with a group of Creole songs comparable to Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne" and pianist Raymond Jackson provided still another with excerpts from Robert Nathaniel Dett's "Bottoms Suite" in which musical folklore is sublimated into pure pianistic impressionism.
But the recital explored many more facets of black music -- a complex reality to which a simple name has been given. From the opening fanfares by Ulysses Kay to the final audience participation in the hymn, "Lift up your voice and sing," the keynote was variety: a brilliant percussion work, "Homunculus C.F.,' by Julia Perry; an organ toccata by Mark Fax; an expertly wrought scherzo for two pianos by Thomas H. Kerr Jr.; the world premiere of another two-piano work, "The Voyage," by John Childs Jr., which flows smoothly from a quiet opening to a dynamic climax, and two groups of songs by Swanson and Wynn L. Boyd which were beautifully sung by Regina McConnell.
Like the music, the performances were excellent throughout this splendidly varied program.