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Postcards from Erica March 2022

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Black women composers? Look no further.
Black is Beautiful Postcard

Photo by José on Unsplash

As Women’s History Month 2022 draws to a close, I am re-publishing three postcards from February 2021 as the second installment of my new series of postcards showcasing unaccompanied works by Black composers.

Usually, I write postcards about pieces of three different levels of difficulty, but for Women’s History Month, I am celebrating the work of three Black women composers – and all three pieces are at an advanced level.

I hope you enjoy exploring these pieces as much as I did selecting them.

March Postcard #1

This is a quietly dramatic work written by the talented young composer Daijana Wallace.

  • Title: Shades
  • Composer: Daijana Wallace (b. 1994)
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2019
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 6′ – 7′
  • Number of Measures: 59
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: eighth note = 64-102; quarter note = 84-92
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb position
  • Technique Employed: double stops, sul ponticello, glissandos, false harmonics, grace notes, harmonics, bass, and treble clefs, 4/4 and free time signatures
  • Where to Purchase: ADJ•ective New Music
  • Cost of Sheet Music: $15*

Recording by Kivie Cahn-Lipman:

Program Notes

“This piece can be broken up into three different characters. From the beginning to rehearsal A, this is generally very mysterious and heavy (when indicated), shifting in dynamic, but still reserved musically. The ~quasi~ theme and variations at rehearsal A progresses expressively through each variation. As intensity increases, feel free to increase your breathy-ness if you so choose. From the climax in mm. 45, it is a slow descent from expressive, back to mysterious.” – Daijana Wallace

Cellist’s Guide

Wallace has packed this short piece full of interesting and effective techniques. The opening motif consists of 3 pitches created by rolling the finger above, through, and below the accompanying open D string drone.

Later variants include alternating fingers on the same note to create slight alterations in pitch, quarter tonal iterations of the same note, and the opening three pitches presented as grace notes. All of these motif variants are interspersed with double stops and modal arpeggios.

This is a quietly dramatic work written by a young composer. If this is a good indicator of her talent, I look forward to seeing what she has to offer in the future.

March Postcard #2

Looking for a piece you’ll love to play that includes folk idioms and works well as an encore or last piece on a recital? Try Eleanor Alberga’s “Ride Through.”

  • Title: Ride Through
  • Composer: Eleanor Alberga (b. 1949)
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2015
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 3:30
  • Number of Measures: 85
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: quarter note = 112
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb
  • Technique Employed: double, triple, and quadruple stops; false harmonics; triplets; pizzicato; left-hand pizzicato; 3/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 time signatures
  • Where to Purchase: Theodore Front Musical Literature
  • Cost of Sheet Music: $12 plus postage*

Recording by the Emily Doveala

Performance Notes

“Ride Through” was commissioned by Robert Irvine for his 2016 album Songs & Lullabies: New Works for Solo Cello. All nineteen of the composers whose short pieces appear on the album donated their services for free, and the proceeds from the sale of the album go to UNICEF.

Cellist’s Guide

Folk idioms, the frequently changing time signature, and various complex rhythms make this a fun piece to play. There are a few places where the transfer from thumb to the lower positions is tricky but certainly manageable.

Additionally, there is left-hand pizzicato, five bars on fingered notes, such as in Popper’s etude No. 34. I recommend this as an encore or the last piece on the first or second half of a recital.

Bonus

Here is a short interview with Eleanor Alberga:

March Postcard #3

Trying to find an enjoyable piece for both the listener and player? Look no further. Dorothy Rudd Moore’s piece is a delightful blend of folk and traditional baroque elements that will make an upbeat and tonal addition to your repertoire.

  • Title: Baroque Suite for Unaccompanied Cello
  • Composer: Dorothy Rudd Moore (b.1940)
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 1965
  • Movements: 3 – I. Allegro, II. Molto Adagio, III. Allegro Vivace
  • Duration of Work: 15’
  • Number of Measures: I. 114 (original version), 113 (new edition); II. 51; III. 107
  • Number of Pages: 6 pages of music, 8 including the two versions of the 1st movement (please see performance notes below), plus title page and notes (14 pages total)
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb position
  • Technique Employed:
    • I. Allegro – 5/8 time signature; tenor clef; double, triple, quadruple stops; thumb position
    • II. Molto Adagio – 5/4 time signature; bass and tenor clefs; grace notes; pizzicato; double, triple, and quadruple stops; thumb position
    • III. Allegro Vivace – 6/8 time signature; triple and quadruple stops; thumb position; bass, tenor, and treble clefs; grace notes
  • Publisher: American Composers Alliance
  • Where to Purchase: American Composers Alliance
  • Cost of Sheet Music* $13.75 or digital download for $10.75*

Recording of 3rd movement by cellist Dr. Timothy Holley

Performance Notes: 

Dorothy Rudd Moore wrote this piece in 1965 for the composer’s husband, cellist Kermit Moore. I have the original manuscript version of the score.

In 2020, a second, printed edition was created, with notes from cellist Dr. Timothy W. Holley. This edition includes two versions of the first movement, the original, and the edited version by Dr. Holley.

Cellist’s Guide

While the harmonies employed in the suite are fairly traditional, the 6/8, 5/4, and 5/8 time signatures help to give each movement an interesting and effective rhythmic sophistication. In addition, Rudd Moore’s frequent and creative displacement of the beat makes this piece enjoyable for the listener and player.

This suite blends folk and traditional baroque dance elements in a fresh way. If you are looking for an upbeat, fun, and tonal work with a baroque feel, I highly recommend adding this piece to your repertoire.

Bonus

Here is a short interview with Dorothy Rudd Moore.


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*Prices given are accurate at the date of the publication of this article. Please check the given links for the current price. The Cello Museum does not control these prices and cannot take responsibility for price changes.

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