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Howard Swanson (1907 - 1978)

Howard Swanson was born in Atlanta in 1907, but moved with his parents in 1916 to Cleveland. He saved enough money to enroll at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Ward Lewis and Herbert Elwell. A grant made it possible for him to continue his studies with Nadia Boulanger in France, but this was terminated by the Nazi invasion. Swanson left Paris by foot, leaving his music behind, one day before the city fell to the Nazis. It took him over a year of travels through Spain and Portugal to make his way back to the United States.

Swanson was virtually unknown until Marian Anderson included his setting of The Negro Speaks of Rivers at Carnegie Hall in 1949, and then the New York Critics Circle decided American composers were now well enough advanced that they could bestow their annual award on a local composer. Swanson was selected, and his Short Symphony was acclaimed the best new work performed in New York during the 1950-51 season. It was during this period that Joy was composed, soon becoming known by the recordings of Helen Thigpen, and of Phalese Tassie, and often performed by baritone Ben Holt



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