I’ve known Bryan Wright (or Bryan S. Wright, if we are to be formal) as the wearer of many hats: musical scholar, record collector, recording engineer, guiding genius of his own Rivermont Records. That would be enough of a curriculum vitae for several people or several lifetimes. But my list needs to be opened up to include Bryan as a sensitive, thoughtful pianist and composer.
I had some wonderful opportunities to hear Bryan in those roles at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival (May 31-June 2) in Sedalia, Missouri.
I was particularly taken with one piece that Bryan not only played but offered to us as a kind of surprise gift: THROUGH THE TREES, by the imaginative composer and pianist Reginald Foresythe (1907-58). Before I heard Bryan’s performance, I knew Foresythe as the composer of DEEP FOREST, and of several bouncy compositions with eccentric titles: SERENADE TO A WEALTHY WIDOW and DODGING A DIVORCEE. Brief research reminded me that he had also composed the song I associate with Mister Strong, HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH. But the first two compositions seem to me to herald the unusual mood pieces that Raymond Scott and Alec Wilder created a few years later. I was not prepared for THROUGH THE TREES.
Before I proceed, I must point out that our ability to hear this piece is also due to the generosity of the British scholar-collector-sound restorer Nick Dellow, who is a deep student of Foresythe and made the sheet music of this otherwise unknown and unrecorded piece available to Bryan — and Bryan’s wife Yuko made the excellent video of Bryan at play.
I told Bryan that I thought of this music as both embodying and bringing peace.
Isn’t that just lovely, as a composition and a performance?
Should you want to hear more of the tender, ruminative Foresythe, I offer this:
Both of these compositions are too large and spacious to fit into stylistic compartments, and for that I (and I think you) should be glad. Thank you, Bryan, Yuko, Nick, and Reginald Foresythe.
May your happiness increase!