I, Too, Sing America: Music in the Life of Langston Hughes

Wednesday at 9 pm at 105.9 FM and WQXR.org

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Langston Hughes, an enduring icon of the Harlem Renaissance, is best-known for his written work, which wedded his fierce dedication to social justice with his belief in the transformative power of the word. But he was a music lover, too, and some of the works he was most proud of were collaborations with composers and musicians.

On Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 9 pm - what would have been Hughes’ 110th birthday - WQXR kicks off Black History Month with the premiere of I, Too, Sing America: Music In The Life Of Langston Hughes, a one-hour radio special that shines a light on Hughes's lesser-known musical compositions.

Hosted by Terrance McKnight, WQXR host and former Morehouse professor of music, I, Too, Sing America will dive into the songs, cantatas, musicals and librettos that flowed from Hughes’ pen. As he did with his poetry, Hughes used music to denounce war, combat segregation and restore human dignity in the face of Jim Crow. His musical adventures included writing lyrics for stage pieces such as Black Nativity and Tambourines to Glory, works that helped give birth to the genre of Gospel Play, as well as songs for radio plays and political campaigns, and the libretto for Kurt Weill’s Street Songs.

I, Too, Sing America will also tell the dramatic tale of Hughes’ collaboration with William Grant Still, hailed today as “the Dean of African American composers.” For 15 years, against the backdrop of pre-Civil Rights racism, the two fought to see their opera become a reality. Their historic success came in 1949, when Troubled Islandwhich told the story of Haitian revolution leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines – was staged by the New York City Opera, becoming the first opera by African Americans to ever be staged by a major company.

The documentary will include recordings of select pieces of Hughes’ musical works, some of which were never performed again in their entirety after their original production. It will also feature archival interview tape of William Grant Still discussing Troubled Island.

Wednesday, February 1 at 9pm ET
WQXR 105.9 FM / New York and www.wqxr.org
February 15 at 8pm on WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 and NJPR
Saturday, February 18 at 6am on WNYC-FM and NJPR; at 2pm on WNYC-AM
Sunday, February 19 at 8pm on WNYC-AM and NJPR

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Comments [12]

Bettina Aptheker from Santa Cruz, CA

Thank you so much for the marvelous tribute to Langston Hughes, and especially all of his operatic and musical contributions. I have been more familiar with poetry and so greatly appreciated this program. I especially admired the enormous research, and the live recordings of Langston and also of William Grant Still. A treasure trove.

Feb. 13 2014 05:04 PM
ChrystinP from Dallas, TX

What a wonderful program. So glad I had the opportunity to hear it and would love to know if it's going to be available as a downloadable recording.

Feb. 26 2012 12:04 AM
gina ballinger from austria

and from austria ALSO so happy that "wqxr is making this vital contribution"; THANK YOU! : )

Feb. 24 2012 08:56 AM
HYH from Freeport, Long Island

A wonderful and profound piece on Langston Hughes by Terence McKnight. Like the Hazel Scott piece from last year, even when you think you know about someone, it is so refreshing and engaging to learn new things or hear things from a different view point or context. Made me google them both to learn more. Thank you Mr. McKnight for your insights and passion -- not just during Black History Month (which is fabulous) but all the time on WQXR. I love the biographical and historical tidbits he gives on the composers and/or on the works he broadcasts. Bravo!

Feb. 20 2012 04:25 PM

Love this musical portrait for black history month. Terrence McKnight is a classical musical genius. Thanks

Feb. 15 2012 09:40 PM

I'm delighted that you all are enjoying this program. I'm honored.

Feb. 09 2012 08:56 PM
Cherie B

Insightful and a pleasure to hear. Thank you for this piece.

Feb. 09 2012 09:34 AM
Jeremy Helton

Another great musical portrait. What a great companion to the Hazel Scott story from last year.

Thanks for this great work!

Feb. 08 2012 10:39 AM
Jade Simmons from Houston

If only we could clone Terrance McKnight, classical music could use his programming sensibility the world over! Kudos to wqxr for this thoughtful and genuine nod to Black History Month.

Feb. 06 2012 05:03 PM
Neil Schnall

Excellent, informative, and interesting program. Made me take note anew of "Langston Hughes Place" in Harlem while driving to work.

Feb. 03 2012 05:18 PM
Jarvis Grant from Washington, DC

Great show Terrance! Glad we can catch it again.

Feb. 03 2012 02:29 PM
dr. walter delph from panama

so very happy to hear that wqxr is making this vital contribution to black history month.congradulation and continued success from panama thank you. dr.delph

Feb. 01 2012 11:47 AM

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