Frederick Tillis

Composer(s): Frederick Tillis
Album Title: Freedom 
Cat. No.: 80455
Genre: Classical
Description: Spiritual Fantasy No. 12 (Suite for String Quartet), Freedom, Sympathy, Motherless Child,
The Rain Forest, Singing for the Sake of My Soul, The Best Times, Beyond Shades of Doubt

Lark String Quartet; Pauline Stark-soprano; Jon Humphrey-tenor; Frederick Tillis-saxophone;

Frederick Tillis is a black American composer who, like his distinguished predecessors William Grant Still and R. Nathaniel Dett, expresses himself in the forms of the European classical music tradition, at the same time infusing them with the spirit of black vernacular music. Tillis matured as a composer in the 1960s. In 1968, he deliberately adopted a compositional style rooted in the thematic and harmonic materials of the spiritual. The chamber works on this disc provide examples of Tillis's use of the spiritual in intimate settings for chorus, string quartet, and solo song with piano.

The major work presented here is Spiritual Fantasy No. 12 (Suite for String Quartet), a quartet of spirituals written in 1995. The composer has written of this work, “The composition of the Spiritual Fantasy for String Quartet pays tribute to the essence of the musical expressions of pathos and triumph over worldly obstacles encountered by a people who found hope and strength through faith in God.”

About Freedom, for a cappella SATB choir, Tillis says: “Freedom uses 18 words reflecting the mood and feelings that overcame me upon hearing of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The text uses “associated imagery” and sonic expression to communicate the sorrowful character of the music.”

The other offerings are Motherless Child, a deeply felt solo soprano saxophone improvisation by Tillis, himself an accomplished jazz musician; a choral cantata, Sympathy, set to a text by Paul Laurence Dunbar; and four settings of the composer’s own poetry which bring this spiritual journey, as it were, to a fitting conclusion. 
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