Remembering African-American composer Margaret Bonds

Posted on: March 5, 2013

A report Sunday (3/3) on the National Public Radio website states, “Margaret Bonds, who died in 1972, is perhaps near the top of the very short list of African-American female composers. Thanks to her partnerships with Langston Hughes and soprano Leontyne Price and others, she’s remembered in some circles as an important figure in American composition. But, mostly, she’s been forgotten. ‘It’s amazing that people don’t know who she was, although she was quite well known in her time,’ says Louise Toppin, an opera singer and a voice professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Toppin is hosting a symposium on Bonds this weekend, in honor of what would have been the composer’s 100th birthday. Toppin spoke with NPR’s Celeste Headlee about Bonds’ impact on American culture as well as her own development as a musician.” On Bonds’s arrangement of Troubled Water, a traditional spiritual, Toppin states, “I was fascinated as a child to see a composition by an African-American, because I hadn’t. As I started to learn the piece and the jazz influence, the extended techniques—you have to have a feel for jazz to play that piece, but you also get a good sense of what a fine pianist Margaret Bonds had to have been to play that.”

Posted March 5, 2013