H. Lawrence Freeman and the Harlem Renaissance

Modified on Fri, 30 Sep, 2022 at 5:04 PM

Gutkin, David and Marti Newland. 2015. ‘H. Lawrence Freeman and the Harlem Renaissance’. American Music Review: The H. Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music 45(1), 1-6 

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American Music Review

Vol. XLV, No. 1, Fall 2015

H. Lawrence Freeman and the Harlem Renaissance

By David Gutkin and Marti Newland, Columbia University

On 26 and 27 June 2015, the life and work of composer H. Lawrence Freeman gained an audience and context. Columbia University hosted a performance of Freeman’s 1914 opera Voodoo, the first production since its 1928 debut, and an interdisciplinary conference, “Restaging the Harlem Renaissance: New Views on Performing Arts in Black Manhattan.” The events took place one week after the Charleston Church Massacre, where nine members of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were shot and killed during prayer service by a self-proclaimed white supremacist. This act of anti-black terror—too similar to those enacted during the early twentieth century—lent the reviving and reconsideration of Freeman’s work a weighty sense of timeliness. The engagement with Freeman’s life and music that weekend offered original insight into black expressive culture during and before the Harlem Renaissance. We hope it may also have served to ignite scholarly interest in the composer and lead to more performances of his operas. This edition of the American Music Review offers context for Freeman’s contributions by featuring selected papers from the conference’s “Harlem Renaissance Opera” panel.

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