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Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs / Merriweather, The Dessoff Choirs & Orchestra

Release Date: 11/01/2019 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2413  
Composer:  Margaret Bonds
Performer:  Laquita MitchellNoah StewartLucia BradfordMalcolm J. Merriweather,   ... 
Conductor:  Malcolm J. Merriweather
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dessoff ChoirDessoff Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A WQXR-FM Best Classical Recording for 2019

Twentieth-century African American composer Margaret Bonds receives long overdue recognition with the world premiere recording of her crowning achievement, The Ballad of the Brown King. With an expressly written libretto by Bonds’ friend Langston Hughes, this Christmas cantata which focuses on Balthazar, the dark-skinned king who journeyed to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus Christ, is beautifully interpreted by New York City-based The Dessoff Choirs and Orchestra, outstanding soloists soprano Laquita Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and tenor Noah Stewart, under the baton of their charismatic conductor, Malcolm J. Merriweather. Bonds authority Dr. Ashley Jackson
Read more contributes the inspired liner notes. This unique seasonal album also includes a selection of specially arranged songs, including a setting of Hughes’ seminal poem I, Too, Sing America, performed by baritone Merriweather and Jackson on solo harp.



Nearly 60 years after its premiere, conductor Malcolm J. Merriweather and the phenomenal New York-based Dessoff Choirs have at last provided a way experience Margaret Bonds’ genius cantata, The Ballad of the Brown King. After luxuriating in this sumptuous setting of the Nativity story (with a libretto by Langston Hughes), be sure to listen to Bonds’ heart-rending Three Dream Portraits, sung forcefully by Merriweather himself.

– WQXR-FM (105.9 FM, NYC) - by Zev Kane Read less

Works on This Recording

The Ballad of the Brown King by Margaret Bonds
Performer:  Laquita Mitchell (Soprano), Noah Stewart (Tenor), Lucia Bradford (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Malcolm J. Merriweather
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dessoff Choir,  Dessoff Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
To a Brown Girl Dead by Margaret Bonds
Performer:  Malcolm J. Merriweather (Baritone), Ashley Jackson (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
Winter Moon by Margaret Bonds
Performer:  Malcolm J. Merriweather (Baritone), Ashley Jackson (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
Dream Portraits (3) by Margaret Bonds
Performer:  Malcolm J. Merriweather (Baritone), Ashley Jackson (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1959; United States 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Important and exceptional music June 8, 2020 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Margaret Bonds is considered one of America's most important 20th Century composers of color. And yet, because most of her work remains unpublished, little of it gets recorded. Which is why I was so excited to get this release. Malcolm J. Merriweather, the conductor of the Dessoff Choirs in New York City, has become a champion of Bonds' music. This release features a major work by Bonds, as well as several songs sung by Merriweather. Bonds had a close relationship with Langston Hughes, and with one exception all the works on this album are settings of his poems. "The Ballad of the Brown King" is a work of incredible beauty. And not just a major choral work, but a Christmas-themed one. Everything about the Ballad sounds fresh and innovative. The text focusses on Balthazar, one of the Three Wise Men who, by tradition is dark-skinned. Hughes' poem makes him a representative of all people of color, taking his place alongside the others at Jesus' birth. Bonds' music is equally innovative. There are echoes of spirituals in the music, as well as a nod to Caribbean rhythms. But her neo-modal harmonies give the music a timeless quality and weaken the ties to traditional Western classical music. But those ties are still there. And that, I think, makes this such a wonderful work. To me, the music, while celebrating African-American culture, also transcends race. This is Christmas music we all can -- and should -- enjoy. Under Merriweather's direction the soloists, choirs, and ensemble deliver a heartfelt performance. The additional songs, for baritone and harp, feature Merriweather as a singer. His rich, creamy baritone seems to sculpt each phrase is precisely the right manner. Don't be fooled by the ho-hum cover art. This is an important release of exceptional music. Margaret Bonds was a gifted composer -- no other modifiers needed." Report Abuse
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