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The Hatch-Billops Musicians

Margaret Bonds portrait photograph

Margaret Bonds


Transcript of audio clip 

James Hatch: Margaret Bonds, what’s this piece of music you’re giving to me?

Margaret Bonds: This is called “To a Brown Girl Dead” a poem of Countee Cullen. The poem was written during the Depression years, about 1929. It says,

“With two white roses on her breasts,

White candles at head and feet, 

Dark Madonna of the grave she lies,

Lord Death has found her sweet.

Her mother pawned her wedding ring

To lay her out in white.

She’d be so proud she’d dance and sing

To see herself tonight.”

Now, this music I set when I was very, very young—in my teens—and I had a whole lot of movement in it. You know when we’re very young, we overdo it. And then in latter years, I decided to use that as an experiment in economy. And I pared down to write as little as I could write. And even this little place in here, you see here in the music where it says “She’d be so proud, she’d dance and sing” I just expressed that with a few chords.


(HB 028, Part one 0:00–1:28)

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