by Kevin McLaughlin
Sunday afternoon’s audience at Jelliffe Theatre at Karamu House was treated to a thoughtfully curated, well-performed program honoring several 20th- and 21st-century Black composers. Karamu House made for an especially congenial setting, and Allison Loggins-Hull, The Cleveland Orchestra’s 11th Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow, was a gracious and thought-provoking host. This was the last event in The Cleveland Orchestra’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Opera & Humanities Festival.
Loggins-Hull periodically provided notes about the program. She is an elegant and compelling presence onstage, and a passionate spokesperson on behalf of her music as well as that of her fellow composers — notably through the lens of social justice.
Transcribed by the composer from her 2014 violin work, Jessie Montgomery’s Rhapsody No. 1 for solo viola felt like a slice of American fiddle tradition, enhanced by Eliesha Nelson’s sympathetic and sonorous performance. A plaintive six-note melody begins its journey, first in double stopped dialogue with itself, then as isolated accents over furious arpeggiation, before ending largely as it began.