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

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

On this week's All Ears, Terrance McKnight shares with us a musical documentary of Langston Hughes. 

Hughes is an enduring icon of the Harlem Renaissance, and 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.

Previously aired on Wednesday, February 1 at 9 pm - what would have been Hughes’ 110th birthday - WQXR kicked 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.

Comments [1]

Jean Aniebona from New York

I love the program.
Unfortunately, it cut off soon after it started. I have been trying to have it go past that point, but it just doesn't work.
I am going to try and listen tomorrow at 4:00 PM. I will also let friends and family know of this celebration of
Langston Hughes.
I am so thankful for your presence on WQXR. You are educating us all about the contributions African Americans have made to America's classical music.

Feb. 26 2012 01:19 AM

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