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The Ballad of the Brown King – Recording

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


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.

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.

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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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