Judith Anne Still, daughter of the neglected symphonist William Grant Still and custodian of his legacy, has written to US music directors seeking help in restoring his music.
Among other things she writes:
It is time for the racially defamatory opera, Porgy and Bess, to abdicate the stage. George Gershwin, said to be a friendly fellow, visited Harlem almost every night in the 1920s where he and other White composers stole the music, songs and dances of the prolific Afro-Americans and made millions from them.
The music of William Grant Still, W. C. Handy and James Johnson was broadly taken over by Gershwin and, after all the thefts, composers of Color were left with ‘plenty of nothing’.
It’s a timely point of view, coming as it does after Porgy’s sell-out success at the Met, but is it valid?
In my new book, Genius and Anxiety, I argue that Porgy’s music is more Jewish than Afro-American.