• Florence Price
  • Night (on texts of Bessie Mayle) (1945)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)

ed. John Michael Cooper

  • pf
  • SSA
  • 2 min 30 s
  • Bessie Mayle
  • English
    • 15th June 2022, Blythburgh Church, Blythburgh, United Kingdom
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Programme Note

Based on a poem written by Bessie Mayle (1898-1959) and published in The Crisis (the official journal of the NAACP) in 1930, Florence Price's Night exemplifies several aspects of the understated beauty and richness of her style. Black poets of the early twentieth century often used the beauty of the blackness of the nighttime sky to celebrate the beauty of their own Blackness, and to subvert traditional poetic images that viewed the darkness of night as an encroachment on the light of day — a symbolically potent subversion that implicitly encouraged Blacks to recognize their own Blackness as something autonomous and inherently beautiful rather than an encroachment on White dominance. The text symbolically equates the rich, dark beauty of the nighttime sky with the beauties and riches of Black culture, also reminding performers and listeners that the "ruling stars" against which the blackness of night is most evident are "very, very old" "stars of yellow gold" — a pointed reference to the slave trade that brought many Blacks to the U.S. Yet even though the glittering brilliance of the stars is what most poets have commented on, Mayle's poem and Price's music adopt a warm and embracing tone which ultimately affirms that the beauty of blackness and night are what will always endure, always return — and Price's decision to end with a sustained high note on the word evermore emphasizes the importance of that persistence in preserving and celebrating Black beauty.

— John Michael Cooper