Troubled Water: CPR Classical Considers The African-American Experience In Music

Margaret Bonds
Margaret Bonds as seen in a publicity photograph in 1952.

As the weight and anger of nationwide protests place renewed focus on the African-American experience, CPR Classical will pause this weekend to play music that examines a centuries-old struggle for equality, dignity and strength.

Join CPR Classical host Karla Walker Friday, June 5 at 12:30 p.m. for a special edition of a Concerts@Home titled, "Troubled Water." She will share music and stories of the African-American plight, and play seminal spirituals that express anguish, pain and unbelievable hope in the face of adversity -- spirituals such as "We Shall Overcome," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "We Shall Not Be Moved."

You'll hear how over a century ago, the world's most famous composer at the time implored America to draw from "plantation songs" as the basis for music in our own concert halls, calling them "the most striking and appealing melodies that have yet to be found on this side of the water (Atlantic).” That renowned Bohemian composer, Antonin Dvorak, then attempted to show the way with his acclaimed "New World" Symphony in 1893.

Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" will be featured, written to accompany the enduring words of our 16th president: 

"The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility... As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."

"Troubled Water" will highlight orchestral music by jazz legend Duke Ellington that commemorates Martin Luther King Jr., and you'll hear music from the first African-American man and woman to gain acclaim as composers in the first half of the 20th century, William Grant Still and Florence Price. 

The program concludes with a piece by 20th century African-American composer and activist Margaret Bonds called "Troubled Water." The suite for solo piano is based on "Wade in the Water,"  one of several spirituals believed to be used as secret code for the Underground Railroad, warning refugee slaves to flee dry land and escape into the waters to avoid capture by the hounds.

"Troubled Water" Upcoming airings:

  • Wednesday, June 10, at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday, June 11, at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 13, at 11 a.m.
  • Sunday, June 14, at 1 p.m.

Previous Airings:

  • Friday, June 5, at 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 6, at 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 7, at 4 p.m.

You can listen to CPR Classical by clicking "Listen Live" on this website. You can also hear CPR Classical at 88.1 FM in Denver, at radio signals around Colorado, or ask your smart speaker to “Play CPR Classical.”