Lecture-recital to shed light on Harlem Renaissance

Staff report


J LanYe, a vocalist-pianist and music educator with a long and distinguished career, will return to her hometown Tuesday to perform a lecture-recital titled “How Spirituals of the 18th and 19th Centuries Influenced the Harlem Renaissance of the 20th Century and Beyond.”

The free informative performance — which LanYe calls an “informance” — will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 305 Wick Ave.

LanYe (she was known as Jo Ann Lanier when she lived in Youngstown) is a sought-after lecturer for her expertise in black music.

The Lake County resident has performed across North America and Europe and was a professor of voice and music at several colleges before retiring in 2006.

LanYe also is a composer, best known for her opera “Highway to Canaan,” a story about a group of runaways seeking freedom via the Underground Railroad in 1851. The opera, which premiered in 2011 in Cleveland, tracks the entire treacherous journey, from Tennessee to Ontario. Much of the opera is focused on northern Ohio, and Youngstown is named in the chorus that ends Act One.

“Highway to Canaan” is one of the few operas composed by a black woman.

A guiding element of LanYe’s career has been to discover truths about music.

In the 1970s, she set out to enlighten audiences about the accomplishments of blacks in classical music and jazz, and developed a robust career as a lecturer- recitalist.

Other career highlights for LanYe, a 1962 graduate of The Rayen School, include singing at the Aspen, Tanglewood and Berkshire music festivals; founding and conducting the Cleveland Choral Collective; composing the anthem for Cleveland’s Bicentennial in 1996; and serving as special visiting artist at the Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

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