Black History Month on WQXR: 'I, Too, Sing America: Music in the Life of Langston Hughes' Explores Harlem Poet as Composer

By Ian Holubiak on Feb 21, 2014 04:14 PM EST

Continuing with Classicalite's celebration of Black History Month, the next up to the figurative bat is Harlem Renaissance icon Langston Hughes.

In learning about Hughes in school, I had assumed the poet had a penchant for music. (I even remember proposing a project to Charles North, poet-in-residence at Pace University, to write a sort of blues guitar accompaniment for Hughes' poems "The Weary Blues," "Po' Boy Blues" and "Gal's Cry for a Dying Lover.")

But now, courtesy of Classicalite's favorite terrestrial radio station WQXR, we're all made aware that Hughes--yes, a music lover--collaborated with composers and musicians on his work.

Check out WQXR's one-hour special entitled I, Too, Sing America: Music in the Life of Langston Hughes, a program that shines light on Hughes' lesser-known music compositions.

As Hughes did with verse, he used sound to abolish war, deter segregation and restore human decency in the face of Jim Crow.

For 15 years, Hughes and composer William Grant Still (remember him?) fought to see an opera they conceived become a reality. The two found success in 1949 when Troubled Island was staged by New York City Opera, marking it the first opera by African-Americans to ever be staged by a major company.

This radio documentary also includes recordings of select pieces of Hughes' musical canon, some of which were never performed again in their entirety after their original production.

So, tune into the WQXR website for the syndicated broadcast of Hughes and his crowning sound achievements, hosted by Terrance McKnight.

Oops, looks like someone got there before I did. Here is a Washington Musica Viva's performance of Hughes' "The Weary Blues" with music by Charles Mingus.

This is too cool for school, man.

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TagsLangston Hughes, Terrance McKnight, WQXR, Black History Month, William Grant Still, The Weary Blues, Po' Boy Blues, Gal's Cry for a Dying Lover, I, Too, Sing America: Music in the Life of Langston Hughes, Pace University, Charles North

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