Milestones Then and Now

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's difficult to imagine a time when women were universally not permitted to play in symphony orchestras--even the last bastion of male-only orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic, named its first female concertmaster a few months ago. It seems that with the passing of every milestone, the original obstacle recedes from memory.

Pianist and composer Margaret Bonds was born in Chicago before the First World War, and by the time she was twenty, she was the first African American to solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At the time, the orchestra did not yet have any full-time female members, and it wasn't until eight years after Bonds's performance, in 1941, that they hired a woman player.

Bonds went on to become a successful composer, known for infusing jazz and negro-folk elements in her neo-romantic compositions. She wrote everything from orchestral, choral and chamber music to spirituals and many piano pieces, virtually all of which she committed to memory, never writing them down. After her death in 1972, her last major work, Credo, was performed by the LA Philharmonic.

This week, we're listening to Margaret Bonds's Troubled Water for solo piano, based on the spiritual Wade in the Water. Also, music of Alan Hovhaness, Mary Ellen Childs and Bryan Johanson.


Soldier in the Rain
Henry Mancini
Don Byron, clarinet
Jerome Harris, acoustic bass
Paulo Braga, drums
Patricia O'Callaghan, vocalist
Blue Note 26801

Quiet Music
Nico Muhly
Nico Muhly, piano
Bedroom Community

Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano
Marcus Paus
Vanessa Mollard, violin
Riko Higuma, piano
Kliment Krylovskiy, clarinet
Emeritus 20072

Nessun dorma
Giacomo Puccini/Don Byron
Don Byron, clarinet
Uri Caine, piano
Blue Note 26801

Dancing Solo
Libby Larsen
Florie Rothenberg, clarinet
Origin Classical 33003

After Dust
Mary Ellen Childs
Cantaloupe 21037

East St. Louis, 1968
David Soldier
Richard Auldon Clark, viola
Dave Soldier, electronics, harmonica
Mulatta 014

Troubled Water
Margaret Bonds
William Chapman Nyaho, piano
MSR 1091

Sonata ananda, Op. 303
Alan Hovhaness
Wayne Johnson, piano
Crystal 813

Kanon Pokajanen: Prayer
Arvo Part
Tonu Kaljuste, conductor
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
ECM 1654

The Secret Guitar
Bryan Johanson
Bryan Johanson, guitar
Yoshi Nakao, clarinet
Joel Bluestone, percussion
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Gagliano 601

Music Knows No Boundaries
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Heads Up 3083


Comments [1]

Stella Dong from East Village, NYC

Someone up in Music Heaven has ESP. Margaret Bonds' daughter, Djane Richardson, just left my apartment. We had spent the last half hour or so looking at the various biographies of her mother online. I knew Djane's mother was a well-known composer and been particularly close to Langston Hughes but knew nothing about her background or music, which is how we ended up online looking at photographs of Bonds and my being amazed at her prolific output. Bonds wrote her first composition at age five! She was a real pioneer and, clearly, an inspired artist.

As Djane left, I said to her, :"It's a shame I can't listen to some of your mother's pieces too." Anyway, when I came back from walking Djane to the bus stop on First Avenue, the Music God had evidently heard my wish. As soon as I walked in the door and turned on the radio, there was Terence McKnight announcing that the next piece would be "Troubled Waters" by Margaret Bonds. It's a beautiful piece, and Bonds was a brilliant woman. I urge anyone who's interested in her to read this article, "The Legendary Margaret Bonds and Her Music: The Queen of African-American Music" at:

Thank you, Terrence, for putting this program together.

Sep. 18 2010 11:35 PM

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