Rhapsody in Black

Composer Julia Perry is being brought back from the margins

Composer Julia PerryPublic Domain

Rhapsody in Black - Julia Perry


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April 20, 2023

Composer Julia Perry for years existed only in the margins. This is because composers like herself have been lost to time because of structural racism and sexism in America. She studied voice, piano and composition at the Westminster Choir College. She came to prominence at Tanglewood, where she studied with Luigi Dallapiccola. She continued her studies with him in Florence and then studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. After studying in Europe, she returned to the United States in 1959 to teach at Florida A&M College (now University). She later took a teaching position at Atlanta University.

Musical selections from Julia Perry

Stabat Mater

Dedicated to her mother, Stabat Mater sets a 13th-century Christian hymn about Mary during Christ’s crucifixion for mezzo-soprano and string orchestra. This work launched her career to international success.

A Short Piece for Orchestra

This work was performed and recorded by the New York Philharmonic in 1965 in Lincoln Center. Composed in a neoclassical style, it incorporates syncopation that creates a percussion-filled frantic and wild composition.

How Beautiful Are the Feet

Part of America’s excellent song tradition, this work is based on Isaiah 52:7. The opening line that is repeated thought says, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace."


Host: Vernon Neal

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher