THE KINDRED SPIRITS OF MARGARET BONDS AND EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
In life and in their contemporary and posthumous receptions, the color line profoundly separated Margaret Bonds (1913–72) and Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950). This would not have been lost on Margaret Bonds — but her six recently published songs on sonnets by Millay demonstrate that she also recognized that their spirits were in many ways alike. They were both brilliant feminists, both iconoclastic, both deeply committed to using their art in the service of social justice. Millay’s poems are suffused with musical references, and Bonds’s music reveals that she was a voracious and extraordinarily astute reader of poetry.
I recently published the first complete source-critical edition of Bonds’s six songs based on poems of Millay, and the occasion of those songs’ publication also led to a two-part guest post on Bonds and Millay for the Women’s Song Forum blog — IMO one of the most exciting blogs out there just now. Part 1 of the post focuses on two autonomous songs, the boldly beautiful “Women Have Loved Before as I Love Now” and the heartbreaking “Hyacinth,” and included wonderful performances of those two songs, done by Max Potter and Dana Long Zenobi. I’m very happy that since that posting soprano Rose Hegele and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Feigenbaum have also taken on “Women Have Loved Before as I Love Now,” and that soprano Olivia Doig has also performed “Hyacinth” — all with wonderful results.
Here’s a link to Part 1, and all the performances of these two autonomous songs are also linked below. Part 2 of the post, discussing a bona fide Millay song cycle by Bonds, will go up in the next few days. I hope you’ll enjoy.
“Women Have Loved Before As I Love Now”
o performed by Rose Hegele, soprano, and Julia Scott Carey, piano (YouTube)
o performed by Stephanie Feigenbaum, mezzo-soprano, and John Cuk, piano (YouTube)
o performed by Dana Zenobi, soprano, and Li Wen Weng, piano (YouTube)
o performed by Max Potter, mezzo-soprano, and Timothy Accurso, piano (YouTube)
o performed by Olivia Doig, soprano, and Janna Williamson, piano (YouTube)
o performed by Dana Zenobi, soprano, and Catherine Bringerud, piano (YouTube)
 Margaret Bonds, Six Songs on Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, ed. John Michael Cooper (Worcester, Mass.: Hildegard Publishing Company, 2020). Five of these songs are also included in Rediscovering Margaret Bonds: Art Songs, Spirituals, Musical Theater and Popular Songs, ed. Louise Toppin ([n.p.]: Videmus, 2021).
Originally published at https://cooperm55.wixsite.com on May 27, 2021.