Dett was dedicated to the cause of black music in America and in 1920 won the Bowdoin and Francis Boott prizes from Harvard U for a series of four articles titled 'Negro music' and for the motet 'Don't Be Weary, Traveller' (J. Church 1921) based on a Negro folk motive. He was awarded the Harmon Medal in 1927, the Palm and Ribbon of the Royal Belgian Band, and several literary prizes. He edited collections of spirituals and folksongs and composed motets, anthems, songs, and 6 piano suites characterized by the melodies and rhythms of black folk music. His works include the oratorios The Chariot Jubilee (1921) and Ordering of Moses (J. Fischer 1937) and the piano pieces The Magnolia Suite (C.F. Summy 1912), In the Bottoms Suite (ibid 1913), which contains the popular 'Juba Dance' (a favourite of his friend Percy Grainger), Enchantment Suite (1922), Cinnamon Grove Suite (1927), and Tropic Winter Suite (1938). The last movement of a symphony commissioned by CBS radio was not completed. Four of his arrangements of spirituals have been reprinted in CMH, vol 5. A few recordings are given in Roll Back the Years. 'Listen to the Lambs' was recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Col ML-5048). He discovered and helped to develop the careers of several singers, among them the soprano Dorothy Maynor. The Dr. Nathaniel Dett Memorial Award has been established to honour a musician of stature who has contributed to the musical development of youth. A substantial collection of his published sheet music is held at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard U, Washington, DC. Arlene E. Gray has compiled a source book (see Bibliography) of the Dett materials in the Niagara Falls (NY) Public Library.
- ed. Religious Folk Songs of the Negro (Associate in Music Press 1972)
The Collected Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett (Summy-Birchard 1973)
'Negro music of the present,' ibid
'From bell stand to throne room,' Etude, Feb 1934
The Development of the Negro Spiritual (Minneapolis 1936)
Author F. Michael Barnwell
Stanley, May. 'R. Nathaniel Dett, Hampton Institute,' Musical America, July 1918; repr in The Black Perspective in Music, vol 1, Spring 1973
'Leading negro choir's European visit,' MT, 1 May 1930
Pope, M. A Brief Biography of Dr. Robert Nathaniel Dett (Hampton, Va, 1945)
McBrier, V.F. 'The life and works of Robert Nathaniel Dett,' PH D thesis, Catholic U of America 1967
Spencer, Jon Michael. 'R. Nathaniel Dett's views on the preservation of black music,' The Black Perspective in Music, vol 10, Fall 1982
Gray, Arlene E. Listen to the Lambs (Crystal Beach, Ont 1984)
MGG Supplement, vol 15, 1973
The New Grove Dictionary
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Music Centre
Search the extensive CMC website for Canadian composer biographies and interviews, music scores, online newsletters, audio clips, podcasts, and more. Check out "CentreStreams" to listen to online archived recordings featuring outstanding Canadian composers.
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Profile of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, their performance calendar, discography, and more. Check the "Sound Gallery" for audio clips from selected recordings. From Latitude 45 Arts Promotion Inc.
Nathaniel Dett Chorale
The website for Canada’s acclaimed Nathaniel Dett Chorale. Features audio clips, videos of interviews and performances, a concert calendar, and more. Click on the top menu option "About" for a link to the biography of Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, founding Artistic Director and conductor of the choral group.
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