Adolphus Hailstork. I admit to being fascinated by the name before I became aware of his music. Dr. Hailstork, born in 1941, received his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University; before that, he studied at the Manhattan School of Music and also with Nadia Boulanger, among others. He is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Dr. Hailstork is a versatile composer, having written numerous works for piano, organ, chamber ensembles, orchestra, band, solo voice and chorus. On my Sunday morning classical show, Classical Sunrise (6 to 9 AM) on 26 February 2012, I will be featuring a sampling of his works as part of WTJU’s Black History Week celebration.
One piece that I will play I find particularly appealing (including the title). It’s called “Ignis Fatuus,” a piano work that he composed in 1976, from a CD of the same name featuring the piano music of Dr. Hailstork.
In the liner notes, the composer informs us that the title means “foolish or mysterious fires” and that it refers to “the spontaneous ignition of gas over swampland.” Dr. Hailstork says that he is a fan of Ravel’s piano music, and the piece is certainly reminiscent of the evanescent quality of some of Ravel’s pieces, such as Miroirs. Dr. Hailstork describes the character of the piece more poetically: “These fire lights seem to flicker on and off, dancing and swirling in the dark of night, like ghostly presences.”