Various Artists – Black Swans – PACD 96067

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Black Swans
This CD contains the first recordings made by black classical performers, singers and instrumentalists, dating from approximately 1917-1922. Only 5 of the 25 tracks have ever been reissued before. Together they provide a demonstration of the forgotten culture of black performers in classical music from the early 20th century.

Harry Burleigh (including previously unpublished broadcast)
Edward H.S. Boatner
Florence Cole-Talbert
R. Nathaniel Dett
Antoinette Garnes
Roland Hayes
Hattie King Reavis
Clarence Cameron White

“Black Swans” featured on All Things Considered, NPR – Tuesday December 8, 2020

NPR’s Audie Cornish talks with Saïs Kamalidiin, a Howard University professor, about the new collection showcasing 25 recordings of early Black classical musicians, called Black Swans.

The NPR page for the segment is here
Audio here:

“There are no words to express how grateful I am to hear of this marvelous piece of love. It’s far too seldom that we speak of our great singers who contributed so very much to the world of Classical Music, not just Pop. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” – Grace Bumbry

“Listening to these almost‑lost recordings is like witnessing an archeological dig reassembling into a bustling street scene, replete with sayers and players, united in music. What a profound gift: great songs and their history reverberating into this century from our chasmic past! Thanks to the formidable efforts of Leslie Gerber and his dedicated team, these voices will never go silent again.” – Rita Dove

Hear the amazing transformation in the audio quality from the original 78rpm disc to this CD:

First, a short excerpt of the audio as it came off the original 78. Then, the same excerpt as it appears on our CD. the excerpt is from track 11 on the CD:
Clarence Cameron White: (violin) White: Cradle Song (William Leonard King, piano) Broome Special 53-B (matrix 35-4-1) (Fall 1919)

Buy BLACK SWANS: Earliest African-American Classical Stars via Amazon
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Rent BLACK SWANS: Earliest African-American Classical Stars via Apple iTunes

“Black Swans” reviewed at Audiophile Audition

“Black Swans” reviewed at

THE BLACK SWAN PROJECT presented by Leslie Gerber and Tim Brooks

Complete Tracklist
1. Harry Burleigh (baritone): Go Down Moses (arr. Burleigh) (piano accomp. probably Burleigh)
     Broome Special 51-A (matrix 45-1-1) (Fall 1919) [2:06]
2. Edward H.S. Boatner: (bass-baritone) I Don’t Feel Noways Tired (probably arr. Burleigh)
     Broome Special 54-A (matrix 85-3-2) (Fall 1919) [2:25]
3. Edward H.S. Boatner: Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (probably arr. Burleigh)
     Broome Special 51-B (matrix 85-2-1) (Fall 1919) [2:59]
4. R. Nathaniel Dett (piano): Dett: In the Bottoms – Barcarolle
     Broome Special 54-B (matrix 86-2-1) (Fall 1919) [2:48]
5. R. Nathanial Dett (piano): Dett: Magnolia Suite – Mammy
     Broome Special 55-b (matrix 86-1-1) (Fall 1919) [2:55]
6. Florence Cole-Talbert: (soprano) Delibes: Lakme – Bell Song (in French)
     National Music Lovers 1028-A (matrix Black Swan 7103) (late 1921-early 1922) [3:25]
7. Florence Cole-Talbert: The Last Rose of Summer (anon.-Moore)
     Black Swan 7104-B (matrix 7104-B) (late 1921-early 1922) [3:01]
8. Florence Cole-Talbert: Dell’Acqua: Vilanelle (William Leonard King, piano)
     Broome Special 52-A (matrix 34-3-2) (Fall 1919) [3:28]
9. Florence Cole-Talbert: Arditi: Il Baccio
     Black Swan 7104-A (matrix 7104-A) (late 1921-early 1922) [3:20]
10. Florence Cole-Talbert: Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen Anon. (arr. C.C. White)
     Broome Special 55-A (matrix 34-2-1) (Fall 1919) [3:31]
11. Clarence Cameron White: (violin) White: Cradle Song (William Leonard King, piano)
     Broome Special 53-B (matrix 35-4-1) (Fall 1919) [3:31]
12. Clarence Cameron White: White: Lament (William Leonard King, piano)
     Broome Special 52-B (no visible matrix) (Fall 1919) [3:44]
13. Hattie King Reavis: Gounod: There Is a Green Hill
     Black Swan 7106-A (matrix 7106-A) (late 1921-early 1922) [3:37]
14. Hattie King Reavis: (contralto) Make More Room Anon. (arr. Dett)
     Black Swan 7106-B (matrix 7106-B) (late 1921-early 1922) [2:29] Note: In some copies these two tracks are swapped in the booklet.
15. Roland Hayes: (tenor) Leoncavallo: Pagliacci – Vesti la giubba (labelled “Arioso”) (in Italian)
     Columbia Personal 62281 (matrix 62281-) (May 4, 1918) [2:56]
16. Roland Hayes: Donizetti: L’elisir d-amore – Una furtiva lagrima (in Italian)
     Columbia Personal 91503 (12”) (matrix 91503) (May 25, 1918) [4:14]
17. Roland Hayes: Verdi: La forza del destino – Sollenne in quest’ ora (with G. Sumner Wormley, baritone)
     Columbia Personal 91508-1 (12”) (May 26 or June 14, 1918) [4:21]
18. Roland Hayes: Katherine A. Glen: Twilight
     Columbia Personal 62282 (no visible matrix) May 4, 1918) [1:59]
19. Roland Hayes: Anon.: Bye and Bye
     Columbia Personal 91512 (matrix 91012-) (June 15, 1918) [2:50]
20. Roland Hayes: Anon.: Steal Away to Jesus (probably Lawrence Brown, piano)
     Columbia Personal 91502 (12”) (matrix 91502-) (June 25, 1918) [4:47]
21. Roland Hayes: Anon.: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
     Columbia Personal 62050 (approx. Dec. 21, 1917) [2:41]
22. Antoinette Garnes (soprano): Verdi: Rigoletto – Caro Nome
     Black Swan 7101 (no visible matrix) (late 1921-early 1922) [3:09]
23. Antoinette Garnes: Verdi: La Traviata – Ah! Fors’ e lui (exc.) (in Italian)
     Black Swan 7102 (no visible matrix) (late 1921-early 1922) [3:51]
24. Antoinette Garnes: Haydn: My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair
     Broome Special 53-B (matrix 77-1-1) (probably 1921) [2:08]
25. Harry Burleigh: Jean-Baptiste Fauré: Les Rameaux (in English, as “The Palms”)
     WNYC broadcast, April 2, 1944, “Mayor La Guardia Talks to the People” [2:58]

Total time 79:00 (all sung items in English except as noted)