Birge's Picks

'Ragtime,' the Harlem Renaissance and an 'American Requiem'

Composer and professor Dr. Adolphus HailstorkDr. Adolphus Hailstork

March 21, 2022

This week the Duluth Playhouse revisits Ragtime. This musical is set in the early 20th century, and was a Broadway hit at the end of the century. Today, 25 years later, Ragtime’s stories of immigration and race resonate with equal power. Here are original cast members, Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell, singing Ragtime’s anthemic song “Wheels of a Dream.”

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly,” wrote Langston Hughes. This weekend, the vocal group Cantus performs a recently rediscovered choral setting of Langston Hughes poems, with music by his longtime friend and collaborator Margaret Bonds. She was one of the first Black women in the United States to gain recognition as a composer. If you can’t attend this performance, Cantus will stream it live, then on-demand until April 3.

I hope that someday we’ll be able to stream Adolphus Hailstork’s new George Floyd requiem cantata, America’s Requiem — A Knee on The Neck for orchestra, chorus, and soloists, which premieres this weekend. It will no doubt in the future find a performance in Minneapolis, but in the meantime the world premiere is in our nation’s capital this weekend performed by the National Philharmonic, the Washington Chorus and the Howard University Chorale.