PRICE: To the Children of War, Diversions, Crossroad’s Alley Trio, The Jubilant Soul, Big Sur Triptych, Hexachord, Fearful, Stile Antico, Affects, A Dad’s Prayer
Ayke Agus, v; Douglas Masek, Michael Arnold, cl; Gregory Newton, g; Bill Wilson, sax; Darryl Taylor, t; D.N. Price,p–Cambria 5882 (Allegro) 73 min

“SunRays”, is the title of this extensive and varied program of chamber, instrumental, and vocal music by Deon Nielsen Price, refers, according to the anonymous notes, to “California and its people, many of whom are immigrants from different parts of the world…Like electricity created by the impact of the sun’s rays as they dance and interact, this music is meant to be at times graceful and at times energetic.” If you like the image, you’ll like the music. The lyrical pieces, such as the 1961 Diversions for piano and the 1988 vocal pieces To the Children of War, about the plight of California immigrants, and “Fearful”, from Three Faces of Kim, the Napalm Girl, which depicts the Pulitzer Prize photograph from the Vietnam War, offer a great deal of politically correct attitudinizing. Price writes with color and her ideas. The best music on this disc, the guitar solo ‘Hexachord’, the violin solo ‘Stile Antico’, and the clarinet-piano duet ‘Affects: a Santa Barbara Rhapsody’, are well-made and playfully virtuosic.

The protest songs, retro-60s stuff, are earnest but not very convincing. The promotional material emphasizes Maya Angelou, pet Laureate of the United States; six of her poems serve as the text for Children of War. “Children of war hope for the future/ Children of war lead a new generation/ Children of war seek peace.” Yeats once said that the argument with others is rhetoric, the argument with oneself is poetry. This is a definitely rhetoric, as is the music.

Now for the good news. Here we have some tuneful, well-made music by a composer who appears to have a real following. In this culture, it is hard to quarrel with a recording of works by a prolific contemporary composer who reaches an audience. Violinist Ayke Agus, one of several excellent soloists, is quoted in the notes saying, “I strongly feel that all of Deon Price’s compositions, each with a certain theme and mood, convey a message, which I think is the real reason why audiences like them. They all contain musical ideas with a neo-romantic flavoring the performers can easily convey. I have performed many modern compositions…but the most enthusiastic response has been when I played her pieces.” Fair enough. The recording is first-rate.

Jack Sullivan

From the American Record Guide
Volume 61, No 2 March/April 1998

With appreciation to Jack Sullivan for his published review of SunRays, I would like to correct an omission and a few errors:
1) The name Berkeley Price, who performs the clarinet solo “Hexachord”, should also be listed as an artist;
2) To the Children of War is a song cycle consisting of six songs with poetry by Maya Angelou, which are interspersed with recitatives based on a story in the Los Angeles Times in July, 1988. The lines quoted in the review are not from the poetry, but from the recitatives;
3) The guitar solo is title “The Jubilant Soul”.

Deon Nielsen Price