Pianist to Perform Music with Roots in Africa

William Chapman NyahoThe Grace Goudy Distinguished Artist Series will feature pianist William Chapman Nyaho Monday, Oct.16, at 7:30 p.m. in Hudson Hall at the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center at Willamette University.

Nyaho, a West African native who often performs in traditional Ghana dress, will perform music by composers of African descent from Ghana, Nigeria, Cuba, Jamaica, Egypt, Great Britain and the United States. The compositions are influenced by African tribal music, European classical music and American jazz, blues and spirituals.

"Nyaho's playing is delicate and exuberant," said Anita King, Goudy Distinguished Artists Series director. "He treats the piano as an orchestra, and the compositions he plays, although new to most listeners, are masterpieces."

"Many African compositions have tribal influence but are not primitive in the sense of being 'simple' pieces," Nyaho said. "The harmonies and rhythms are highly intricate." Many rhythms are written in unusual time signatures, such as 19/8. And unlike Western music, which typically has a destination or climax, African music is often not supposed to go anywhere, but to be in the present moment.

Nyaho has performed in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and North America. The Oxford University-trained musician has been featured on National Public Radio and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. His CD, "Senku: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent," was named one of the Best of the Year by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which called it "altogether enthralling." A Gramophone Magazine reviewer said, "The humanity of the music and Nyaho's gripping performances kept my ears glued to this disc."

Nyaho will offer a master class Sunday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. in Hudson Hall. The class is free and open to the public.

Concert tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, and are available at the door or at the Pentacle Theatre Ticket Office, 145 Liberty St. NE, 503-485-4300. There is a service charge added. Discounted tickets are available on campus for Willamette students and staff. For more information contact the Department of Music at 503-370-6255.