Jester Hairston

Mary's Little Boy Child, song

    Description by James Leonard

    Jester Hairston (1901-2000) was an African-American actor and choral conductor and composer. As a movie actor, he first appeared as a witch doctor in a Tarzan movie and last appeared as a friend of Lester's in Being John Malkovitch. As a radio actor, he had a long-running part on the Amos 'n' Andy show. As a television actor, he had a long-running role in the same show, as well as a key role in the show Amen! As a choral conductor, Hairston graduated cum laude from Tufts University and served his apprenticeship in the Hall Johnson Choir. After moving to Hollywood, Hairston got his first break when Dimitri Tiomkin had him conduct the choir in the film Lost Horizon and from there Hairston went on to direct the choir in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and many other films. As a choral composer, Hairston wrote over 300 Negro spirituals, the best known of which is "Mary's Boy Child," a hymn with a consoling melody and straightforward harmonies that sounds more like a folk song than a composed song. "Mary's Boy Child" was first recorded by Harry Belafonte in 1956 and released in 1958. Since then, it has been recorded by Jim Reeves, John D. Loudermilk, Anne Murray, Boney M, José Feliciano, Andy Williams, Roger Whittaker, the Drifters, Engelbert Humperdinck, Mahalia Jackson, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Plácido Domingo, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Kiri Te Kanawa, Montserrat Caballé, the Swingle Singers, and most recently Charlotte Church.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sony Classical 88875183412
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875032272
    2016 ABC Classics
    2015 Silva Classics SILKD 6049
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 ABC Classics 4821693
    2014 Carus CV 83014
    2013 Decca
    2013 Collegium Records CSCD 306
    2013 Reflections / Reflections 60310
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 48068005
    2012 Polydor 3712329
    2012 CCT / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099970516
    2012 Klavier Records 77042
    2012 ABC Classics ABC 4810033
    2012 Motif 30032
    2011 CD Baby / Disc Makers 5637880790
    2011 BIS BISCD 1885
    2010 Spectrum Music 2046
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778768
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2008 Collegium Records 133
    2008 CNR Entertainment 179262
    2007 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099951037
    2007 Stoker / Stoker Resources Group 111407
    2007 Counterpoint 985
    2007 Direct Source 6410
    2007 Masterworks / Sony Classical Essential Classics 8869717008
    2007 Decca / Universal Distribution
    2007 London/Decca / Decca B0010018
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4776738
    2006 C&B Media 10209
    2006 Jasmine Records 2607
    2006 Clarion 918
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000538902
    2004 Reader's Digest Music 4047
    2003 Reader's Digest Music 4004
    2003 London/Decca / Decca 4750812
    2003 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 57673
    2003 Decca 000131002
    2003 Razor & Tie 82897
    2002 St. Clair 6374
    2002 St. Clair 6371
    2002 St. Clair / Premier / Premiere 62172
    2002 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 5071
    2002 Silva America / Silva Treasury 5026
    2002 St. Clair 6378
    2002 Decca 472568
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3221
    2001 Decca / Uptown/Universal 470022
    2001 Time/Life Music TCD 802
    2000 Disky 24843
    2000 Sony Classical 89463
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon / PolyGram 457357
    1998 RCA / RCA Victor 63252
    1997 Rivoalto 9612
    1997 Sony Classical 63304
    1995 London 4486142
    1992 Sony Classical SK-48235
    1988 Polydor 981
    VM Productions 25000
    London 414632-2
    ABC Classics 4801489
    ABC Classics ABC 4810626
    RCA 2884-2-R