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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

UTSA Takes On Ambitious Holiday Program With A Poetic Twist

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Phil Houseal
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Gene Dowdy

This weekend at the University of Texas at San Antonio, they're playing holiday music, but with a twist.

"This weekend we kick off our Winterlude Concerts," says UTSA's Gene Dowdy. "Winterlude is a time of the season for the UTSA Music Department to share the spirit of the season with the community in a series of concerts.  They begin this Sunday with  a 3 p.m. performance, that'll be repeated Monday night at 7:30."

He says the first half of the performance is fairly standard holiday seasonal songs, but the second half -- is quite different. And exceptional.

"The beautiful work of African-American composer Margaret Bonds. She worked with this incredible poet Langston Hughes. And together they produced this beautiful work called The Ballad of the Brown King. And it's a Christmas cantata for chorus and orchestra."

It's essentially the nativity story, but with a Langston Hughes twist.

"The We Three Kings story, the cool thing about it is that you remember, one of them was a dark-skinned King, he was kind of a mysterious, tall, dark-skinned gentleman. Well, the cool thing is that Langston Hughes brings this down, unpacks it--as to what it means to be an American in the United States looking at the Christmas story through that lens."

He had talked about the makeup of the concert, but not its sound. Dowdy's face lit up.

"It sounds like an African-American symphony, a cantata.  You're going to hear jazz rhythms, jazz harmonies. You're going to hear ragtime rhythms, R&B. It just really gets down with the chorus singing a capella. It really is a beautiful piece."

He says there will be no shortage of holiday music this season, but this event will be like no other.

"Looking at the Christmas story through that lens, and it's a beautiful opportunity."

Find more on this concert here