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Postcards from Erica June 2022

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Black composers? Look no further.

June 2022 Postcards from Erica

This is the fifth installment in my series of digital postcards about unaccompanied works by Black composers.

In selecting the music every month, I keep in mind orchestra directors and students in search of contest pieces, teachers seeking supplemental literature, and professionals hankering for new repertoire.

These monthly postcards give you the information you need to help you choose a piece that’s right for you. I also include links to make it easy for you to locate and purchase the sheet music you want. I hope you enjoy exploring these pieces as much as I did selecting them.

Catch up on my previous postcards in this series, my postcards on women composers (“That’s What She Said”), or revisit all of my postcards.

June Postcard #1

American composer, conductor, percussionist, and violinist Gregory Jermaine Jackson has written several pieces for cello, including a unique cello-marimba duet. This particular composition reflects his Romantic tendencies, while hinting at his tendency to experiment with rhythm and line, evoking humid zephyrs wafting through a late summer garden.

  • Title: The Garden
  • Composer: Gregory Jermaine Jackson (born 24 September 1976)
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Date: composed 2014
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 3:45
  • Number of Measures: 71
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: Largo
  • Difficulty Level: late beginner
  • Highest Position Reached: 5th
  • Technique Employed: 4/4 time signature, bass clef, slurs, triplets, accidentals
  • Publisher: composer
  • Where to Purchase: contact the composer
  • Cost of Sheet Music: contact the composer



Cellist’s Guide

For late beginners/early intermediate cellists, The Garden is an excellent vehicle
for practicing bow control and vibrato. Playing long notes and slurs necessitate a slow,
steady right hand, while the frequent dynamics changes call for numerous adjustments to the
amount of weight put into the bow.

June Postcard #2

Heralded by the BBC as “One of the most distinctive and communicative voices in the US, as a player and a creator,” Jessie Montgomery’s works are performed globally by prominent musicians and ensembles. Her style “interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st-century American sound and experience.”

  • Title: Cadenzas for solo cello for the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major
  • Composer: Jessie Montgomery (born 8 December 1981)
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2014
  • Movements: Allegro moderato, Adagio
  • Duration of Work: 3’, 1’
  • Number of Measures: 44, 13
  • Number of Pages: 4
  • Tempo: quarter note = 40, 52, 60, 70, 76, free
  • Difficulty Level: advanced/professional
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor, and treble clefs; 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 times signatures; double, triple, and quadruple stops; harmonics and false harmonics; trills, grace notes, tremolo, sul ponticello, triplets, quintuplets, sextuplets, rolling chords
  • Publisher: Jessie Montgomery Music
  • Where to Purchase:
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $11.99 (sample of the score)


Jessie Montgomery and Christine Lamprea

Program Notes

“Christine Lamprea commissioned Jessie Montgomery to write cadenzas for the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major during Ms. Montgomery’s tenure as composer-in-residence with the Sphinx Virtuosi in 2014. Ms. Lamprea performed the cadenzas with the Delphi Chamber Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony, and on a 5-city tour in the United States and Canada with the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio. “When I first heard Jessie’s music on the Sphinx Virtuosi Fall 2013 tour, I was curious to learn more about her take on composition as an active performer in addition to as a composer. Her new cadenzas are fresh, avant-garde, yet informed and related to the rest of the concerto. I’ve learned more about the concerto after collaborating and discussing what she took from the piece, and I am so lucky to work with such an exciting, compelling new voice to add a new experience to the Haydn D Major Cello Concerto.” — Christine Lamprea

Cellist’s Guide

While it used to be customary for cellists to create their own cadenzas, the practice has fallen out of fashion. Though various cadenzas are available for the Haydn Concerto No. 2, this version honors the roots of the concerto while being harmonically up to date. Montgomery manages to maintain traditional rhythmic patterns while successfully incorporating modern playing techniques such as the use of ponticello and false harmonics.

June Postcard #3

One of the co-founders of New York’s Symphony of the New World, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson was a prolific composer of classical music who was equally versed in jazz and popular music. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, he wrote arrangements for musicians such as Max Roach, Marvin Gaye, and Harry Belafonte as well as a number of films, documentaries, and television shows. His style reflects his classical training and has been described as blending Baroque counterpoint with American Romanticism, exhibiting elements of the blues and black folk music as well as rhythmic ingenuity.

  • Title: Lamentations – Black/Folk Song Suite
  • Composer: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (14 June 1932 – 9 March 2004)
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 1980
  • Movements: Fuging Tune, Song Form, Calvary Ostinato, Perpetual Motion
  • Duration of Work: 16’
  • Number of Measures: 57, 15, 24, 178
  • Number of Pages: 11
  • Tempo: quarter note = 100. quarter note = 69, quarter note = 80, quarter note = 76
  • Difficulty Level: advanced/professional
  • Highest Position Reached: 7th (optional thumb)
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor & treble clefs; 4/8, 6/8, 7/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, and 9/4 time signatures; double, triple, quadruple stops; pizzicato, left-hand pizzicato; harmonics, many accidentals
  • Publisher: Keiser
  • Where to Purchase: Sheet Music Plus
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $14.95



Read Aaron Grad’s program notes here.


At first glance, I thought there might be misprints in the score, as the first two movements contain measures that are a sixteenth or eighth note shy or in excess of the number of beats indicated by the time signature. However, after studying the Fuguing Tune and Song Form, I realized that beats are simply displaced and that everything works out as long as you keep the sixteenth note constant. I.e., instead of furiously counting, feel the pulse.

Another interesting aspect of this piece is that there is no key signature for any of the movements. There are many accidentals, but this is not problematic as the chords make sense in the hand and ear.

Because of the rhythmic complexity, liberal use of chords, and/or quick tempo, this is certainly not a piece that can be learned quickly. Since I enjoy listening to Lamentations (and I hope you do as well) I will definitely be putting this on my practice list.

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