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Let’s Cook: A Symphony and a Souffle

Instantly an image of clusters of blooming purple irises shone around me. Thoughts of spring and blooming flowers broke the dark sky as I drove on Highway 2 to Rugby. The music playing on the radio triggered me into thinking about blooming purple irises. Engaged by this beauty, I pulled over and waited to hear title of the composition and the composer. Somewhere on my way to adulthood I grasped that trying to recall the title of music was made easier by taking the time to actually write it down. This is precisely what I did when I heard the announcer say “Adoration by Florence Price.” He then went on to explain that a trunk of Price’s music had recently been discovered in her abandoned summer home in Illinois by carpenters who were renovating the place.

With research, I came to discover that Florence Beatrice Price was born in Little Rock, Ark., on April 9, 1887, and that she passed away on June 3, 1953, in Chicago. In a short 66 years, this woman added immeasurably to our world of music. She was performing at age 4 and published her first composition by age 11. Her mother was a music teacher and knew that Florence was gifted. She went on to study piano and organ at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Price was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer and made history when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E Minor, making her first female Black composer to have a symphony performed by a major U.S. orchestra. She wrote more than 300 pieces of music including symphonies, concertos, sonatas and songs. She also taught – at Clark College and other places, in addition to giving many lessons to students. A true testament that her confidence rested in unwavering hope – no matter how much she was rejected. The recent discovery of stacks of music, manuscripts, letters and diary fragments have brought her front and center in the music world. Sad to say that during her time she is on record as saying to Dr. Koussevitzky, the Russian conductor in her lifetime, “I have two handicaps – I am a woman; and I have some Negro blood in my veins.”

Her eruptions of frustration were certainly valid and for that I am forever sad. I was fostered in an environment that promoted racial harmony and peace. My dad taught me that “getting along” depends about 98 percent on yourself. He showed me that consideration for others is the basis of a good life and an honorable society.

Just this past March 20 and 21, the North Dakota Music Educators Association hosted the 55th Annual All-State Music Festival in Bismarck. Our daughter, Lydia, along with several other Minot students, performed with the All-State Orchestra. The guest conductor was Dr. Thomas Dickey from Oklahoma State University. He had the brilliance to transcribe Florence Price’s “Adoration,” which was originally written for organ. What joy filled my heart to hear this beautiful piece of music performed with such perfection and feeling. It is leaders like Dr. Dickey who put the spark of interest in young people to learn about the devotional quality, the dignified melody, and accompanying Sambre chords that Price composed in this piece. He supports to bring forth the big picture that comes into sharp focus when using the clear lens that all races have something to offer in music and beyond. As I was listening to this performance, my wish was that everyone could hear this piece and in doing they would realize it is a call to diminish painful divides in our world. Divides that rob us of a brighter world.

This performance inspired me to do more reading about Florence. I came to discover Dr. Karen Walwyn who teaches at Howard University in Washington, D.C. I took the time to call her and leave a voice mail. Guess what? She called me back! She has a great admiration for Florence Price. In our visit I learned about documentarian, James Greeson, who produced “The Caged Bird: The life and Music of Florence B. Price.” In this Emmy nominated film, Dr. Walwyn was featured as one of the pioneering soloists of the music of Florence Price. In addition, Dr. Walwyn is an award-winning pianist, composer, and Steinway artist. Her performance with the Colorado Spring Chamber Orchestra which featured the Florence Price “Concerto in One Movement” is simply wonderful. She takes every opportunity to celebrate the music of Florence Price and her meticulous compositions.

Here are some inspiring quotes from Minot students on being able to play Price’s “Adoration.”

Elise S. mentioned, “It means a lot to me to hear from female composers. The fact that she is African American and people would not publish her music because of this causes me to have a true sense of admiration for her. It is admirable to play her music and see how gorgeous it is.”

Elizabeth P. noted “playing a piece of music composed by a woman is inspiring to me. Even though she was discriminated against, the power and courage she displayed to go against the normal at that time is moving. Her pieces are beautiful and I am really glad I had the experience to play her music.”

Seeing Lydia after the concert, I mentioned that “Adoration” was my favorite piece. She turned to me and said “Dad, I knew you would say that.” It made my day! She and the other participants have learned a valuable experience from this music. They know that practicing music in order to play it correctly brings forth beauty.

Carrot Souffle

I first experienced this dish at the home of our former Rugby neighbors, Melvin and Verone Stutrud. It is delicious and easy to make. It can be made in a simple baking dish if you do not have a souffle pan. This is a perfect dish to prepare for Easter dinner. It can be served as a side dish or a dessert.

2 pounds of carrots peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup of melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

4 eggs

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add carrots, and cook for 15-18 minutes or until carrots are very tender. Drain the carrots and place them in a blender or food processor. Add the butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange rind and eggs. Process until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and blend until just combined. Pour the carrot mixture into the prepared dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and set. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

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