Two works seeking to broaden classical music’s African American experience

Marlissa Hudson as Bess and Kevin Deas as Porgy in the National Philharmonic’s concert performance of “Porgy and Bess” at Strathmore on Saturday night. (Don Lassell/Don Lassell)

On Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, the Millennium Stage hosted an unusual event: the world premiere of an unknown work by a neglected African American composer. Margaret Bonds’s Easter cantata “Simon Bore the Cross,” is set to texts by Langston Hughes. The same night the National Philharmonic, at Strathmore, performed one of the most beloved works associated with the African American community: “Porgy and Bess,” written, of course, by a white composer, George Gershwin.

Both works represent attempts to fold…

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