William Bolcom: Ballad of the landlord

Written by Justin Austin


In category: Song of the Day

Published September 14, 2017

“Ballad of the landlord” is a poem by Langston Hughes. It basically is a dialogue between an African American tenant and a white landlord. It’s interesting to me that Langston doesn’t offer any opinions. He tell’s the story as it happens and the reader/ listener has no choice but to develop their own opinion. This poem was set to music by composer William Bolcom in 2002 as part of his cycle “Old Addresses”. Musically, Bolcom marries the worlds of classical singing with soul and even hip hop. This piece was given to me by American Song specialist Paul Sperry at the Manhattan School of Music. If you want to see a live performance of “Ballad of the landlord”, I will be singing this piece on my debut recital at Carnegie on October 9 at 8pm.

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Praised in Opera News as “a gentle actor and elegant musician”, baritone Justin Austin joined Heidelberger Frühling in 2017 as a Lied Scholar Artist in Lied Akademie with Artistic Director Thomas Hampson and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as a Richard Gaddes Festival Artist. In July 2016, Justin was honored by the National Association of Negro Musicians and named the National Winner of their prestigious Vocal Performance Scholarship. Justin is a NYFOS Emerging Artist program alum and this fall will make his Carnegie Hall recital debut and perform on the Mainstage with NYFOS in Take Care of This House.


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