The Harlem Chamber Players (Founding Executive and Artistic Director Liz Player) will mark its 15th Anniversary and Black Music Month with a musical extravaganza Harlem Songfest II, celebrating Black opera singers and the music of Black composers, including women, on Friday, June 9, at 7 p.m. at Miller Theatre at Columbia University (2960 Broadway at West 116th Street in Manhattan). Multifaceted artist Damien Sneed will serve as music director and conductor for the event, which will also feature arias from the European canon. The special concert is hosted by WQXR radio personality and Harlem Chamber Players (HCP) Artistic Advisor Terrance McKnight and presented in association with the Manhattan School of Music. Tickets for Harlem Songfest II — ranging from $20-$40, with $50 VIP tickets — are on sale Here. They can also be purchased by calling 212-854-7799 (Wed-Fri from 2 p.m.-6 p.m.).
Soprano Janinah Burnett, soprano Jasmine Muhammad and baritone Kenneth Overton — currently on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera — and tenor Martin Bakari and mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford will join HCP’s 45-piece orchestra for the performance.
Harlem Songfest II builds on the success of the HCP’s 2018 Harlem Songfest, which featured arias solely from the European canon. The sequel concert features arias, spirituals and songs by Black composers, including women, as well as classics from European composers Georges Bizet, Gustave Charpentier, Gaetano Donizetti, George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss and Giuseppe Verdi and America‘s favorite, George Gershwin. The program will include the works of Black composers, including He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Margaret Bonds (arranged by Sneed); Voodoo Queen aria, by Harlem Renaissance’s Harry Lawrence Freeman, a work the HCP helped revive from 87 years of obscurity in a 2015 staging; the Overture to Tremonisha by Scott Joplin (arranged by Sneed); There is a Balm in Gilead from Spiritual Sketches by Sneed; and the 4thof July Speech by Dorothy Rudd Moore (arranged by Sneed), a piece inspired by Frederick Douglass’s renowned 1852 speech “What to the Slave is Fourth of July.” My Son, My Child from Emmett Till by the 89-year-old composer Mary Watkins will also be performed.
“The Black community and the Harlem community especially adores and appreciates singers, and The Harlem Chamber Players is determined to give them what they want at this concert, which will showcase some incredible voices and stars of opera stages everywhere,” said Ms. Player, who heads up the ethnically diverse classical orchestra. “We are centering the Black artists who have traditionally been marginalized in classical music.”
The concert is being presented with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Howard Gilman Foundation, M&T Charitable Foundation, West Harlem Development Corporation, Columbia Community Service, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mosaic Fund.