Did you think you were going to get past hearing the piece William Grant Still wrote to honor the African harp called the ennanga, on my watch? Not a chance.
The first thing I want you to know is that this piece is being played by harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, who was the first black female harpist hired as Principal Harpist for a major American orchestra. She is still an incredible and amazing harpist, and is the harpist John Williams adores and for whom he has composed a beautiful harp piece called “On Willows and Birches.”
1. Listen to the beautiful, brooding nature of the second movement, with some delicate “lifts” in the harmony, which is generally quite content to stay within the scale, but flirts with a bit of chromatic nuance. It is the nature of the African harp to play within a limited scale.
2. First and Third movements have the sound of a Juba. Listen to the interplay and uses of the harp and the piano. The piano is often used as percussion, and the harp is used for melismatic, flowing passages.
3. Listen for the sense of place conveyed especially in the first movement. I hear a sense of broad landscape, and also a very communal sense of movement. Overall sense: Beauty and Joy