Da Capo Chamber Players to Perform Works by George Walker ’41 and Wendell Logan

January 30, 2020

Cathy Partlow Strauss

side-by-side portraits of George Walker, sitting at the piano, and Wendell Logan
George Walker '41 and Wendell Logan (l-r)
Photo credit: Oberlin Conservatory

Alumni-founded ensemble honors acclaimed African American composers with ties to Oberlin at New York's Merkin Hall in February.

Chamber music masterworks by two African American composers with deep Oberlin connections will be presented by the Da Capo Chamber Players on Lincoln‘s birthday, February 12, 2020. The 8 p.m. performance will take place at New York's Merkin Concert Hall (129 W. 67th St.).

The program, titled “Remembering George Walker,” will feature four works written by the 1941 Oberlin Conservatory graduate between 1970 and 1999, including the premiere of a transcription of his chamber orchestra piece, Tangents. Also on the program will be Runagate, Runagate for tenor and chamber ensemble, composed by longtime Oberlin Conservatory faculty member Wendell Logan.

Founded by Oberlin aliumni, the Da Capo Chamber Players have been at the center of New York’s new-music scene for more than 45 years.

A number of Oberlin alumni have served among the group’s ranks, including ensemble founder and flutist Patricia Spencer ’65 and cellist Chris Gross ’03. Oberlin Conservatory violin professor David Bowlin ’00 previously served as the group’s violinist and performed on its CD release of music by Chinary Ung, which was named one of NPR's “Top 5 American Classical Albums” for 2010.

A win at the 1973 Naumberg Chamber Music Competition launched the five-member "Pierrot" ensemble’s career. Since then, more than 150 works have been written especially for the group and its relatively unique instrumentation of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano.

Featured composer George Walker was the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for composition. He enrolled at Oberlin at age 14 and graduated from the conservatory with high honors at 18. He died in 2018. Tangents was arranged for Da Capo’s five-member instrumentation by composer David Sanford. Walker’s other compositions on the program are Music for 3, Modus, and Five Fancies.

Logan established the jazz division at Oberlin Conservatory. He joined the faculty in 1973 and taught for more than three decades until his passing in 2010.  His work Runagate, Runagate, a setting of Robert E. Hayden’s poem about a fugitive slave, received a significant rave when Da Capo played it in 2013. “I could barely fathom how a work so sharply drawn and gripping could languish virtually unknown,” New York Times music critic Steve Smith wrote at the time.

“Remembering George Walker” has received special support from the Composers Guild of New Jersey and the Roger Shapiro Fund for New Music. 

Tickets are available at the Kaufman Music Center at 212-501-3330 or online.

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