Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King

Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King


Laquita Mitchell, soprano
Noah Stewart, tenor
Lucia Bradford, mezzo-soprano
Ashley Jackson, harp
The Dessoff Choirs & Orchestra
Malcolm J. Merriweather, conductor


Release Date:

1st November 2019

Cat No:





20th-century African-American composer Margaret Bonds receives long overdue recognition with the world-premiere recording of her crowning achievement, The Ballad of the Brown King. With an expressly written libretto by Bonds’ friend Langston Hughes, this Christmas cantata which focuses on Balthazar, the dark-skinned king who journeyed to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus Christ, is beautifully interpreted by New York City-based The Dessoff Choirs and Orchestra, outstanding soloists soprano Laquita Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and tenor Noah Stewart, under the baton of their charismatic conductor, Malcolm J. Merriweather. Bonds authority Dr. Ashley Jackson contributes the inspired liner notes. This unique seasonal album also includes a selection of specially arranged songs, including a setting of Hughes’ seminal poem I, Too, Sing America, performed by baritone Merriweather and Jackson on solo harp.


Margaret Bonds (1913–1972)
The Ballad of the Brown King (1954) (23.34)
Libretto by Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

Laquita Mitchell soprano (4, 6, 9)
Lucia Bradford mezzo-soprano (9)
Noah Stewart tenor (1, 4, 6)

1. Of the Three Wise Men (3.31)
2. They Brought Fine Gifts (2.33)
3. Sing Alleluia (0.46)
4. Mary Had a Little Baby (2.45)
5. Now When Jesus Was Born (2.09)
6. Could He Have Been an Ethiope? (4.53)
7. Oh, Sing of the King Who Was Tall and Brown (4.12)
8. That Was a Christmas Long Ago (1.24)
9. Alleluia (2.41)
The Dessoff Choirs & Orchestra
Malcolm J. Merriweather conductor

10. To a Brown Girl Dead (1956) (2.06)
Text by Countee Cullen (1903 – 1946)

11. Winter Moon (1936) (1.15)
Text by Langston Hughes

Three Dream Portraits (1959) (7.00)
Texts by Langston Hughes
12. Minstrel Man (2.20)
13. Dream Variation (2.38)
14. I, Too (2.02)

Total time: 35.16

Malcolm J. Merriweather baritone
Ashley Jackson harp

Tracks 1 – 9 recorded November 30 and December 1, 2018 at James Memorial Chapel, Union Theological Seminary, New York City
Tracks 10 – 14 recorded at Skinner Hall, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, on February 16, 2019
Recording producer, engineering, editing, and mastering: Marlan Barry