ed. John Michael Cooper

  • Piano
  • 3 min

Programme Note

Summer Moon (1938) is one of at least two of Price's compositions associated with the well-known and beloved singer, jazz pianist, and social activist Memry Midgett (1920-2013). A classically trained pianist, Midgett — who apparently studied piano with Price, and for whom Price wrote the beautiful wedding song "God Gives Me You" — eventually became a successful jazz pianist and vocalist, performing as one of Billie Holiday's accompanists over a period of eighteen months (1953-54) and performing with Holiday and Count Basie in Carnegie Hall in 1954. She became a beloved figure of the jazz scene of the San Francisco Bay area until an automobile accident in 1965 made a career change necessary — whereupon she pursued and attained a Bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California, San Francisco, followed by a Master's degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. After teaching high school for some time she shifted careers again, rising to the position of Chief Administrator for the Department of Public Health in San Francisco.

Although Summer Moon, written when Midgett was just seventeen years old, falls early in this career, it is tempting to discover in it something of the dynamic personality that endeared Midgett to audiences and colleagues wherever she went. Outwardly the work is in a conventional ternary form, with framing A sections in D-flat major and a central B section in B-flat minor, plus coda; and certainly the deeply songful melodies of the A sections are no stranger to Price's style in general. Yet the richly chromatic harmonic language of Summer Moon, especially the streams of parallel non-functional seventh and ninth chords in mm. 10-11, 23-23, 43-48, 50-52, and elsewhere also evoke the harmonic idioms of jazz — and the pervasive influence of jazz harmonies in the B section is undeniable. In these senses, Summer Moon represents an instance of Price's brilliance in seamlessly integrating the styles of concert and vernacular repertoires to produce a genre-fluid work whose title and motiving imagery — that of the summer moon — continue to evoke the post-Romantic sound-world whose poetic inspiration derived from the individual's reflection on nature.

— John Michael Cooper