Monday, March 3, 2014

Margaret A. Bonds, African American Composer & Pianist Born March 3, 1913; 'Troubled Water' played Feb. 16, 2014 at Weill Recital Hall by Fredericka King

[Margaret Allison Bonds]

Fredericka King

March 3, 2013 was the Centennial of the birth of Margaret Allison Bonds, the composer and pianist who was the first African-American soloist to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted a March 2–3 Symposium: Margaret Bonds and the Women of the Chicago Renaissance.

The page on Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972) makes extensive use of the research of Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,, who has compiled a comprehensive Works List for her.  Prof. De Lerma tells us the composer was born in Chicago on March 3, 1913. Margaret was 4 when her parents divorced, Prof. De Lerma relates. At the age of 13 she began studying composition with William Levi Dawson and Florence B. Price, with whom she also studied piano.

Bonds entered Northwestern University at 16, in 1929. Prof. Rae Linda Brown wrote the liner notes for the CD Black Diamonds: Althea Waites Plays Music By African-American Composers, Cambria 1097 (1993). She describes the importance of the Wanamaker Prize Bonds won in 1932 for her composition Sea Ghost: “Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) achieved national recognition when she won the Wanamaker Prize in 1932 for the song Sea Ghost, the same contest in which her teacher, Florence Price, received her coveted awards.”

In 1933 Bonds made history as the first African American soloist to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Maya Angelou is the author of the liner notes for William Chapman Nyaho's CD, Senku: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent; Music Masters 1091 (2003). She writes of the activities of Bonds after finishing her studies at Northwestern University: “Upon graduation, Margaret Bonds worked in Chicago performing, composing and collaborating with writer and poet, Langston Hughes in cantatas, musicals and song cycles.”

On Dec. 4, 2010 Al Rudis wrote in the Long Beach Press-Telegram: “The famous poet and the lesser-known composer collaborated on a work for piano and voice called 'The Ballad of the Brown King,' which Bonds later made into a cantata for full chorus, soloists and orchestra. It premiered in December 1954, in New York City, and for a while it was performed a lot, mostly in churches. Then it sort of disappeared. Fast-forward half a century to 2010 in Long Beach, and the cantata is once again part of the Christmas season, thanks to the Long Beach Chorale, which performs it Saturday and Dec. 12 at Grace Presbyterian Church.”

Margaret Bonds taught theater in both Harlem and Los Angeles, where she moved in 1967. She remained there until her death in 1972. Her best known work is the piano composition Troubled Water, which is found on numerous recordings, including Senku.  During the year following the Centennial of the birth of Margaret Bonds, numerous performances made use of her compositions, including a recital at Weill Hall by the pianist Fredericka King, shown above.  On January 26, 2014 AfriClassical posted:

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