Freeman, Harry Lawrence

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Freeman, Harry Lawrence

Freeman, Harry Lawrence, African-American composer, conductor, and teacher; b. Cleveland, Oct. 9, 1869; d. N.Y, March 24, 1954. He studied theory with J.H. Beck and piano with E. Schonert and Carlos Sobrino. He taught at Wilberforce Univ. (1902–04) and the Salem School of Music (1910–13). He organized and directed the Freeman School of Music (1911–22) and the Freeman School of Grand Opera (from 1923); also conducted various theater orchs. and opera companies. In 1920 he organized the Negro Opera Co., and in 1934 he conducted a pageant, O Sing a New Song, at the Chicago World’s Fair. He was the first black composer to conduct a sym. orch. in his own work (Minneapolis, 1907), and the first of his race to write large operatic compositions. All of his music is written in folk-song style, his settings in simple harmonies; his operas, all on Negro, oriental, and Indian themes, are constructed of songs and choruses in simple concatenation of separate nos.


DRAMATIC Opera : The Martyr (Denver, 1893); Zuluki (1898); African Kraal (Chicago, June 30, 1903; rev. 1934); The Octoroon (1904); Valdo (Cleveland, May 1906); The Tryst (N.Y., May 1911); The Prophecy (N.Y, 1912); The Plantation (1914); Athalia (1916); Vendetta (N.Y, Nov. 12, 1923); American Romance, jazz opera (1927); Voodoo (N.Y, Sept. 10, 1928); Leah Kleschna (1930); Uzziah (1931); Zululand, tetralogy of music dramas: Nada, The Lily (1941–44), Allah (1947), and The Zulu King (1934). B a 1 1 e t : The Slave for Choral Ensemble and Orch. (N.Y, Sept. 22, 1932). OTHER: Songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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