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MARGARET BONDS: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs

The Dessoff Choirs records "The Ballad of the Brown King" by Margaret Bonds with soloists, choir and new orchestration by M. Merriweather.

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Dessoff Sings “Ballad of the Brown King” at The Greene Space for WQXR

Posted on February 15, 2020 by The Dessoff Choirs, Inc.

Dessoff was honored to perform excerpts from The Ballad of the Brown King by Margaret Bonds on December 15, 2019 at WQXR’s Greene Space. The Dessoff singers with soprano Laquita Mitchell and tenor Noah Stewart performed “IV: Mary Had a Little Baby” from the Ballad, conducted by Dessoff’s music director, Malcolm J. Merriweather with pianist Kyle Walker and Ashley Jackson on harp.

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Dessoff’s New Release Receives Critical Acclaim

Posted on January 22, 2020 by The Dessoff Choirs, Inc.

Dessoff’s new release, Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs has received critical acclaim from reviewers such as Gramophone, All Music, The New Yorker, WQXR and The Daffodil. Selected by Gramophone, Presto Classical and WQXR as one of the best new releases in 2019 and added to their xmas lists, the reviewers felt that “Bonds’s 1954 Christmas cantata on a text by the poet and civil rights activist Langston Hughes is a real find, and deserves to be whole-heartedly embraced by choral societies far and wide.”  Presto Editor’s Choice, November 2019. Gramophone said of it  “Hearing it here, for the first time in nearly 60 years, is as good a reminder as any of what this season means.” GramophoneThe Christmas List selection (1 of 8 recordings chosen for the holidays.) Also “A major event…transparent, yet deeply felt…an important addition, thanks to Merriweather and company, to the American choral repertory.” All Music. The album has also received airplay on BBC radio, WQXR, WOSU (Columbus, Ohio), WFMT (Chicago, IL)  and WWFM (New Jersey).

The Dessoff Choirs announces the release of “Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs” on November 1, 2019.

Posted on October 14, 2019 by The Dessoff Choirs, Inc.

The Dessoff Choirs is thrilled to announce the release of its newest recording on AVIE Records. Coming November 1, Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs features The Dessoff Choirs and Orchestra, soprano Laquita Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford, tenor Noah Stewart, Bonds authority Ashley Jackson on harp, and Malcolm J. Merriweather, conductor and soloist. Considered Bonds’ crowning achievement, the libretto for this Christmas cantata was written expressly by her friend, the poet Langston Hughes. Rounding out the album is a selection of specially arranged songs by Margaret Bonds, featuring baritone Malcolm J. Merriweather with harpist Ashley Jackson.


In December 2018, The Dessoff Choirs recorded The Ballad of the Brown King by Margaret Bonds with soloists, choir and a new orchestration by Malcolm J. Merriweather, Dessoff’s music director. It is our goal to release the recording in December 2019 and perform it with orchestra at our 2019 Welcome Yule concerts.

The Ballad of the Brown King is a holiday cantata with text by Langston Hughes. Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., this little-performed and never-recorded work focuses on Balthazar of the Three Kings. First performed in 1954, the piece combines elements of various black musical traditions, such as jazz, blues, calypso, and spirituals.

Additionally, Malcolm J. Merriweather, Dessoff’s Music Director and baritone soloist along with Ashley Jackson on harp, recorded five songs by Margaret Bonds – To a Brown Girl Dead (text by Countee Cullen), Winter Moon, Minstrel Man, Dream Variation, and  I, Too (with texts by Langston Hughes).

Margaret Bonds was one of the first black composers and performers to gain recognition in the United States. Her first-rate works blend styles of African and European origin, and her compositions for voice and piano have profoundly moved audiences. Involved in the civil rights movement and Harlem Renaissance, she advocated at every opportunity for her fellow African American artists. She is best known for her collaborations with the great African American poet Langston Hughes.

Project Media

Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel by Robert Sirota
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Robert and Victoria Sirota’s “Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel” was written “in memory of the nine individuals murdered during a bible class in an act of racist terrorism on 17 June 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and is dedicated to their families who revealed a deep faith in a loving God when they were able to express forgiveness to the killer two days later.” Dessoff performed this work on April 28, 2018 as part of their “Freedom Concert.”

In Honor of Martin, Movement III – David Hurd
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David Hurd’s “In Honor of Martin” was performed by the Dessoff Choirs at Alice Tully Hall, on November 7, 2016 with the premiere of an orchestrated version. Through music, “In Honor of Martin” synthesizes King’s great dream of black and white, Jew and Gentile joining hands. Idiomatically, the piece combines elements of jazz, graceful melodic figures and a thought-provoking approach to form over 5 movements.

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New York, New York

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Last update on February 15, 2020

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February 29, 2020 | New York, NY
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New York, New York
The Dessoff Choirs, founded in 1924, is one of the leading choruses in New York City with an established reputation for pioneering performances of choral works from the Renaissance era through the 21st century. Dessoff’s mission is to enrich the lives of its audiences and members through the performance of rarely heard choral music including premieres…


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