Sometimes, composers write music that’s meant to sound like nature or busy, city streets. Others have written music that relays emotions or historical events. And then there’s one woman, who wrote a work with protest at it’s core. Hi there – I’m Garrett McQueen and on this edition of NoteWorthy I’d like to share with you the Montgomery Variations by Margaret Bonds.

Like most Black women of the early 20th century, Margaret Bonds faced many challenges, not only as a composer, but as a U.S. citizen! She didn’t run away from those challenges, though. Margaret Bonds, despite her challenges, not only made a better way for herself, but worked tirelessly to do the same for others in her position.

In the 1960s, Margaret decided that she needed to connect her artistry to what was happening in the world around her, so she composed this work in honor of the activism she saw down south – specifically, in the city of Montgomery, AL.

The work is known, today, as the Montgomery Variations by Margaret Bonds – a work that takes the spiritual, I Want Jesus to Walk With Me, and marches it through a series of variations that help listeners like you and me not only remember the hard work of the activists of the past, but envision how we can continue to push toward a a more perfect union. This, among her many other achievements, makes Margaret Bonds one of the most Noteworthy of American Composers.

Noteworthy is a production of WDAV classical public radio.

Pictured: Margaret Bonds By Carl Van Vechten.