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Storyville 124 0011

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KEMPER HARRELD
Jeffrey P. Green
Record collectors might know of Kemper Harreld as the violin soloist on Souvenir and Swanee River, which were issued on Paramount 12186 in 1924. Others will know that he trained Fletcher Henderson in Atlanta, Georgia. Peter Carr’s very useful article on trumpeter Leon Scott, which appeared in Storyville 53, has his name as ‘Capper Harrell’, but shows that Scott’s musical training was with John Whatley in Birmingham, Alabama, N. Clark Smith in Chicago — both men responsible for many of the musicians in Chilton’s Who's Who, as he indicates — as well as with Harreld at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Information from Harreld’s daughter in 1984/85 indicates that her father has a distinct claim to fame as one of America’s leading black music teachers, suggesting that any jazz musician who lived in or near Atlanta from 1911 may have received the benefit of expert tuition from Kemper Harreld. Harreld’s replacement at Morehouse College was Wendell Whalum, who remains very active at this writing, and was largely responsible for the first modern performance of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, reported in Storyville 40.
Bom in Muncie, Indiana, on 31 January 1885, Kemper Harreld started his music education in that city’s public schools, and then moved to Chicago, where he graduated in 1905 from the Chicago Music College and performed in concerts as a violinist. He moved to Atlanta in 1911. He spent the summer of 1914 in Berlin, where he studied the violin with Siegfried Eberhardt. His diary showing the problems faced by Americans in Germany when war broke out in August 1914 survives; Hazel Harrison, concert pianist, and Alain LeRoy Locke, author of The New Negro, 1925, and other works, were with the Harrelds. In 1919, he was one of the founder members of the National Association of Negro Musicians,
and was national president from 1937 to 1939. He remained head of the music department at Morehouse from 1911 until 1951, and jointly at Atlanta’s Spellman College from 1927 until 1952.
The Morehouse Alumnus magazine for October 1929 (Volume 2, Number 1) had a three-page article on the college glee-club and orchestra. At the beginning there were a dozen students and ‘'five or six in the orchestra, which was led by a student, Edmund Jenkins, who would play first the violin, then the clarinet, during the rendering of a piece.” This was not so much an orchestra as a small instrumental group of music enthusiasts which had been organized by Edmund Jenkins, whose father had founded the Jenkins’ Orphanage at Charleston, South Carolina, a forcing house for jazz musicians in the 1920s and later, as John Chilton’s A Jazz Nursery shows. However, Harreld built up an orchestra of more than thirty men, no mean achievement for experienced players would leave when they graduated, or earlier, as French horn player Leon Scott did, although some trained under Harreld for eight years. Few American colleges had an orchestra in those days. In 1927 the orchestra travelled as far north as Chicago and Detroit, “adding fame to the name of their college as well as to themselves.”
Harreld’s pupils moved on in black America, with those who became Baptist ministers expressing their views, according to the 1929 article, that his tuition enabled them to develop music in their churches. Harreld researched southern folk hymns and spirituals, rediscovering spirituals, worksongs, lullabies, and love songs. Behind those musicians whose music is appreciated by Storyville readers, we may find, in the local church-group where their early musical experience took place, a graduate of Harreld’s
KEMPER HARRELD
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classes in Morehouse College.
The 1929 article does not mention Fletcher Henderson, possibly because jazz was popular music and the aspirations of college graduates were expected to be focussed on ‘higher’ levels, but more likely because Henderson graduated from Atlanta University, not Morehouse.
Mentioned in the article as better-known graduates were Willis Lawrence James, who had set up the music department at a college in Leland, Louisiana, and at the Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery, and thus influenced Erskine Hawkins, and Oliver Jackson, who was head of the Arkansas State College at Pine Bluff, not in music, by the way. Edmund Jenkins’s career at London’s Royal Academy of Music and his early death in Paris in 1926 are mentioned, whilst Frederick Hall’s work in the music department of Jackson College in Mississippi and later at Clark University in Atlanta is detailed, along with his recordings and broadcasts. James continued Harreld’s researches and became a fine folklorist.
One of the students of Morehouse was Edward R. Patrick, who is listed,.playing the trombone, in a concert programme of 24 April 1913 in Atlanta, with Edmund Jenkins, piano soloist, under Harreld. In late August 1914, Kemper Harreld and his wife were in London after some hair-raising weeks in wartime Berlin. They attended a service at Westminster Abbey on 30 August; as they prepared to leave, they met Jenkins and Patrick, who had seen them in the congregation. Jenkins and Patrick had been in London since May with the Jenkins’ Orphanage Band, playing at London’s White City Exhibition until it closed because of the war. The incident was told often in the Harreld home, and has been told to me by the Harreld’s daughter, who has sent a copy of the programme of the service and other items.
Josephine Harreld Love also looked over a draft of this article and commented that the Paramount disc was originally made for Black Swan, adding “Fletcher Henderson is the accompanist on the record. The recording
was made in New York in 1922 (on a sweltering hot day that I shall never forget!).
I was seven years old.” She also commented that Henderson “was a fine pianist — classically trained. He was associated with the Black Swan company, I believe, as an employee.” According to Walter C. Allen’s Hendersonia (p.69), where it is listed, unheard, as a possible Henderson accompaniment, the Harreld Paramount record was first issued on Black Swan 7105.
Of her father’s pupils who might be considered as jazz-orientated, she listed Arthur Clark or Clarke, a sax player from Birmingham who played with Lucky Millinder, Harold McKinney, a pianist and composer of Detroit, Edna ‘Tokye’ Truitt, a composer and pianist who had a trio around Atlanta, Johnson Hubert, former head of music at Morris Brown College, who played jazz piano from the 1930s and is writing a book on black music, and two Atlanta musicians: Cornelia Berry, who accompanied Helen Humes and other singers in New York, and Graham Jackson, who was a theatre organist and pianist. Jackson’s photograph, tears in his eyes and holding an accordion as Franklin Roosevelt’s body passed en route to Washington, was carried by Associated Press and was published all over the globe. She also told me of‘Doc’ Crawford, born in the 1900s and now in Beckley, West Virginia, who played jazz trombone in the ‘small combo era of jazz’.
Kemper Harreld should be respected as the tutor of Henderson, rightly described by James Lincoln Collier in his Louis Armstrong thus: “Between 1923 and 1926 Henderson and most particularly his arranger and musical director, Don Redman, worked out the design that big jazz bands have followed ever since.” Further research might show that other pupils, who spread out across America and Europe, as did Edmund Jenkins, Edward Patrick, and D.D. Crawford, participated in jazz, and that jazz lovers owe more than a small debt to Kemper Harreld and the black colleges of Atlanta, Georgia.
My thanks to Josephine Harreld Love of Detroit.