Composers Datebook®

Alvin Singleton's "PraiseMaker"

Composers Datebook - May 22, 2024


The Cincinnati May Festival one of America’s oldest music festivals, with roots going back to the 1840s, and a formal launch dating from the 1870s. Over the course of its history, the Festival has performed great choral works of both European and American composers and commissioned and premiered many new works.

On today’s date in 1998, for example, James Conlon conducted the premiere performance of PraiseMaker, a new work for chorus and orchestra setting texts by poet and screenwriter Susan Kougell to music by American composer Alvin Singleton.

The title was inspired by the “praise singers” of Africa, who serve as the oral historians and celebrants of their community’s history and traditions. Susan Kougell’s text is a celebration of memory, expressed in simple, almost minimalist poetry.

“Her poetry is so straightforward; you don’t have to work to figure it out,” said Singleton. For his part, Singleton scored PraiseMaker for chorus and orchestra, with a percussion section that includes temple bells, tubular bells and vibraphone.

Reviewing a recording of PraiseMaker made by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, one critic wrote, “The score surprises you with its range of mood and even, in places, with its tenderness.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Alvin Singleton (b. 1940): PraiseMaker; Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Robert Spano; Telarc 32630

On This Day


  • 1813 - German composer Richard Wagner, in Leipzig


  • 1949 - German composer Hans Pfitzner, 80, in Salzburg


  • 1813 - Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Woman in Algiers), in Venice at the Teatro San Benedetto

  • 1836 - Mendelssohn: oratorio Paulus (St. Paul), at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Düsseldorf, with the composer conducting

  • 1874 - Verdi: Requiem Mass, at the Milan Cathedral, with the composer conducting

  • 1911 - Debussy: Le Martyre de Saint-Sebastien, in Paris at the Théatre du Châtelet, André Caplet conducting

  • 1924 - Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, at the Paris Opéra at a concert conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, with the composer as the piano soloist

  • 1931 - William Grant Still: ballet Sahdji, by the Eastman Ballet and Rochester Civic Orchestra, Howard Hanson conducting

  • 1950 - R. Strauss: Four Last Songs for soprano and orchestra, in London, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler and Kristen Flagstad the vocal soloist

  • 1982 - Alvin Singleton: A Yellow Rose Petal for orchestra, by the Houston Symphony, C. William Harwood conducting

  • 1990 - John Harbison: Simple Daylight (to a text by Michael Fried) at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, by soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Alan Feinberg

  • 1999 - Bright Sheng: Flute Moon, with soloist Aralee Dorough (flute/piccolo) and the Houston Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach conducting


  • 1723 - J.S. Bach, the newly appointed cantor of Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church, arrives in that city with his family

  • 1790 - Possible premiere of Mozart's String Quartets in D and B-flat at Mozart’s apartment in Vienna, likely with the composer as violist

  • 1872 - On his 59th birthday, Richard Wagner lays the cornerstone of his Festival Theater in Bayreuth, Germany

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®