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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Prince George's County Historic Preservation Organizations and Groups

 Newly restored Ridgeley Rosenwald School

               Prince George's County Maryland is rich in history and has historic preservation partners and friends in depth. Working with each other and with local and state agencies these county organizations provide the political will and the support-in-kind necessary to preserve the past to learn about tomorrow.

               We have a richer community and a better quality of life when we can touch the past. The county historic preservation groups enable all of us to learn more about ourselves for who we are is inextricably rooted in who we were and where we may be going.

Riverside Field / Columbia Air Center / Croom Field

               Occasionally historic preservation is perceived as an inconvenience to development. In truth, however, historic preservation, when included in broad economic development plans and execution, becomes a benefit to the entire community as part of an integrated approach to economic progress.

               As Prince George's County heads towards being a major regional if not national venue for conventions, meetings, business, and pleasure, the amenities that support this economic engine will be enhanced by tourism including historic places. The possibilities of the hospitality and tourism industry are enlarged by historic preservation. 

               Historic preservation is a tool of education for those who live here as well as those who visit. Historic places and structures are living extensions of libraries and learning. They provide a context for important conversations and debates. Historic preservation is not anti-economic-development; it is pro-community-development.  

  • Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center "Our mission is to celebrate and inspire the Community through the cultivation, preservation, and presentation of the cultural and artistic contributions of African Americans in Prince George’s County, Maryland. As the heart of the Gateway Arts District, we believe that we have an obligation to the community to promote collaboration, engage unlikely allies in dialogue and encourage participation in the creative process. We value our role as a ‘town square’ where dreams can grow and ideas ripen, where everyone’s voice can be heard, and where we learn from each other. Only in this way will we create true bonds between our institution and our public."

  • Prince George's Heritage  "Our goal is to assist residents and officials within Prince George's County to highlight the challenges facing our community to preserve our shared heritage. Prince George's Heritage, Inc. is the official advisory organization of the Maryland Historical Trust in Prince George's County. Its grants program supports preservation, education, and restoration projects."

  • Prince George's County, Maryland Chapter of AAHGS [Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society]  Our objectives are to promote Black History in Prince George's County, to encourage the historical and genealogical studies of African Americans currently residing in the county, and to support the goals and objectives of our national society. To reach these objectives, AAHGS-PGCM conducts activities such as: workshops, speaker forums, discussion groups, onsite research, speakers bureau, exhibits, and networking. AAHGS was organized in July 1994 and chartered 28 April 1995 as a non-profit volunteer organization."

  • Prince Georges County Historical Society  Our mission is one of preserving and promoting the County's long and diverse history through: Reproducing new and out-of-print historical materials; Collecting records, documents, photographs, and artifacts reflecting the County's social, economic and political history; Operating the Frederick S. DeMarr Library of County History; Providing educational opportunities through lectures, programs and tours; Recognizing and supporting individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to the preservation of the County’s rich multi-ethnic, multi-cultural heritage.  Founded in l952, the Society is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization."

  • Prince George’s County Historical and Cultural Trust "Is a county-chartered, independent non-profit organization whose mission is to foster a sustainable and diverse community through advocacy and education by engaging our civic and government leaders in a collaborative process that empowers the residents of Prince George’s County to explore and preserve our cultural heritage.´

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The dramatic and exuberant finale of the Prince George's Philharmonic 2011-2012 season

Awadagin Pratt

               The final Prince George's Philharmonic concert of the 2011-2012 season took place last night at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, at the University of Maryland, College Park.[1] The audacious and demanding program was filled with drama and exuberance. The technical demands on the soloist and the orchestra made every moment of the evening a musical cliff-hanger and emotional roller-coaster.  The program started with Tahiti Trot, Op. 16,  Dmitri Shostakovich's 1927  version  of "Tea for Two" from the musical No, No, Nanette.[2]

               The evening then began in earnest with the introduction of the evening's soloist, Awadagin Pratt, the first African-American pianist to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition. Mr. Pratt has since then, " performed with nearly every major orchestra in this country [the United States], at the Clinton White House, and on Sesame Street" (Cruice 2000).[3] Mr. Pratt began with an program intermezzo of two solo piano pieces by Fred Hersch, the first of which, Nocturne  for left hand alone, gave a glimpse of the power and technical mastery of the piano that was to come in the Gershwin. As a student of piano and music composition, I was astounded at Mr. Pratt's ability to bring out the inner voices of the piece - a technical skill that would be applied with gusto and vigor in the Gershwin Rhapsody that followed.

               The first half of the program featured the extremely familiar Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue. Repeated hearings of this warhorse of the American 'classical' repertory may have led me to expectations that exist only in my mind's ear. The orchestral piece's famous clarinet solo opening was slightly askew, and things rapidly went astray from there. And I mean, given the extraordinary tempo that the collaborators chose - things rapidly went wrong right from the beginning. Mr. Ellis however demonstrated his strong bond with and control of his musical partners and by the end had managed to wrangle all the orchestral sections into some semblance of togetherness. A side effect of the struggle to get with the chosen tempo was the orchestra's tendency to overwhelm the soloist. As a pianist, I was stunned to hear a grand piano disappear, a feat that I had not thought possible. But that is the hubris of a once very young student of piano. In this concerted musical struggle, the orchestra surely 'won' out much to the loss of the audience.

               The soloist, Awadagin Pratt,  on the other hand, was brilliant. The commercialization for reason other than music of this famous piece makes any interpretation extremely problematic. Mr. Pratt's extraordinary technical fireworks and his well-honed skills at bring out melodic and rhythmic features that are usually subsumed by the broader familiar tropes were quite amazing. I continued to be fixed on the inner musical voices and equally important inner rhythms that Mr. Pratt found and showcased. Mr. Pratt's interpretation has made me revisit this old favorite in a new light, and that is a sure sign of a great artist. It should be noted that the incredible speed of the performance hid some if not much of the structural integrity and complexities of the piece the result of highlighting some of the performance pyrotechnics.    

               After intermission, and with some in the audience, including me, fearing the worst, the Prince George's Philharmonic began its journey through the dramatic universe of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony. My pen and paper were ready to record the details - I was so drawn into the performance that I wrote nothing. The performance was a first-class incontestable tour de force for the orchestra - first rate  unbelievable, emotionally wrenching experience. All of the earlier technical performance problems had melted away in the presence  of the monumental symphony of the giant of 20th century classical music, Dmitri Shostakovich. There is nothing easy or simple about the Tenth Symphony. It is 50 plus minutes of drama and intensely tragic music, followed by 5 minutes of heroic cheering for having reached the musical summit. The Prince George's Philharmonic took the audience from the depths of musical despair to the mountain tops of human emotion in a world class performance.

               From the slow first movement filled with expectations of dread to the havoc-wrought, machine-gunned-filled second movement the orchestra performed as a cohesive ensemble, allowing the conductor to pull from it every shred of gut wrenching emotion he could find. The dance like conversation of the third movement, and the musical references to the composer and his loves were done with a professional bravura that allowed the listener to be enveloped by the structure and the sounds of the music itself. By the time we the audience and the orchestra reached the grandest of finales, we knew we had been  together on a journey through the universe of dark demands and dramatic dreams.

               Prince George's County's very own Philharmonic can rest assured that it closed its season on the highest note of excellence. Its conductor and its performers took those of us in attendance on a musical journey that was seared into the collective memories. The orchestra reached the top and deserves every accolade for its last performance of the season. I am proudly Prince Georgian and among the many outstanding reason why is the Prince George's Philharmonic.

[1] Prince George's Philharmonic
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 8:00pm
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, MD
Charles Ellis Conductor - Awadagin Pratt, Piano

Shostakovich      Tahiti Trot, Op. 16
Hersch                 Nocturne for left hand
Gershwin              Rhapsody in Blue
Shostakovich      Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93
[2]  About the Piece. LA Philharmonic. [accessed May 13, 2012]
"Shostakovich treats his material faithfully, including the verse (twice) in his setting, but the mock heroic opening for muted brass lends a swagger that provokes the first of many smiles during Tahiti Trot. The famous melody is entrusted to various percussion instruments, then to alternately sleek and syrupy strings. The capricious scoring, which calls for glissandi in trombones, then piccolo, ensures that the mood is more than a bit silly."
[3] Awadagin Pratt. Wikipedia. [accessed May 13, 2012] see also Awadagin Pratt  Home page