Pandemic Platforms: With the onset of the devastating COVID-19 outbreak, the performing arts community had to find a new home in the digital space to share and nurture their artistic talents. Here are some of the presentations that have been eye-catching during this unprecedented season.
by Patrick D. McCoy
#1 “Black Opera Live” with baritone Kenneth Overton: In conjunction with the documentary chronicling the lives of legendary singers Martina Arroyo, Grace Bumbry, Simon Estes, the late Jessye Norman, Leontyne Price and George Shirley in a long-awaited documentary, baritone Kenneth Overton has expanded the celebration of Black opera singers in the virtual space by hosting a show on Monday nights. Each show focuses on either a specific voice type or topic that pertains to the Black opera singer, especially during the pandemic. A favorite was this commemoration of the January 10th 1989 appearance of four Black legendary sopranos at the Metropolitan Opera, in leading roles in an opera by Mozart. Overton chatted live with sopranos Harolyn Blackwell, Roberta Alexander and Barbara Hendricks. Watch the video to learn more about that special night!
#2 “KiKi Konversations” with soprano Karen Slack: Slack created her own virtual platform by hosting a variety of singers, composers and arts administrators for candid conversations, especially as as it pertains to racial equality or lack thereof in the realm of opera and classical music. Just as the name implies, the outstanding soprano appears with a glass of wine and the conversations flow! Check out this konversation with classical music editor Zachary Woolfe.
#3 “Bach Interactions” with The Washington Bach Consort: Like so many other performance organizations in the Nation’s Capitol, artistic director Dana Marsh led the singers and instrumentalists of The Washington Bach Consort in a variety of virtual performances, from presentations of solo, choral and instrumental works by Bach. Check out this Christmas Day performance of Part I of the Christmas Oratorio.
#4 HBCU Virtual Masterclass Series presented by the Coalition for African-Americans in the Performing Arts: Before the pandemic, one of The Coalition for African-Americans in the Performing Arts most innovative initiatives was the opportunity to present outstanding Black opera singers in Master Classes in person at many of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The organization was able to continue the series virtually, allowing the students to learn from master teachers. Some of the singers included Morris Robinson, Angela M. Brown, Lisa Daltrius, Denyce Graves, among numerous others. Soprano Angela Renee Simpson coordinated the masterclasses, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Witness this particular masterclass led by bass Morris Robinson at Morehouse College.
#5 “Purple Robe Song Series” with soprano Nicole Heaston Lane: Soprano Nicole Heaston Lane not only used her lyric, radiant soprano voice to present her now hallmark “Purple Robe Series” but she also created a unique platform for other singers to join their voices for social change in the virtual singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing with the nation’s outstanding Black Opera Singers.
#6 “Early Music America: “Slave Songs and Spirituals as Early Music” with countertenors Reginald Mobley, Patrick Dailey and baritone James Dargan. This is a very powerful conversation that asserts that the spiritual is and should be also respected as ‘Early Music.”
#7 The Choral Arts Society of Washington 40th Annual Holiday Gala, in addition to several virtual presentations during the pandemic. In spite of the pandemic, Choral Arts made their annual traditional happen with virtual performances, silent auction and a fun evening enjoyed remotely. His Excellency Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland, and Mrs. Greta Mulhall were the honorary patrons of the Irish-themed gala. Check out the remainder of their virtual season: https://choralarts.org/virtual
#8 Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic: This was perhaps one of the first major virtual US symphony performances with social distancing protocols in place.
#9 “Women, Their Voices and Nothing Less” A special virtual concert honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement hosted by Washington Concert Opera. The year 1920 marked a major turning point for equality in America: the year that the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Filmed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts here in Washington, DC.
the program featured the music of Virgil Thomson, Florence B. Price, Undine Smith Moore, Joaquín Turina, and Enrique Granados performed by sopranos Aundi Marie Moore, Danielle Talamantes and Shannon Jennings accompanied by pianist Justina Lee.
To learn more about Washington Concert Opera, visit: https://concertopera.org
#10 African-American Music Conference hosted virtually by the University of Michigan, celebrating the 90th birthday of Dr. Willis Patterson. In celebration of the 90th Birthday of Dean Willis Patterson, music scholars from around the world convened virtually for this groundbreaking conference celebrating his legacy and spearheaded by Dr. Louise Toppin.
Read more about the presentation: https://arts.umich.edu/news-features/u-m-african-american-music-conference-goes-virtual-celebrates-willis-pattersons-90th-birthday/
OTHER NOTABLE PRESENTATIONS:
#11 “The Sit-Down With LB tenor Lawrence Brownlee-The superstar tenor also turned his talents to the interview format, interviewing outstanding artists and sparking engaging conversations, such as this one with legendary tenor Vinson Cole.
#12 “Cooking With Denyce”-Out of all of the presentations, the acclaimed mezzo-soprano is probably the only one to come on the scene in the middle of the pandemic with her own cooking show! Check out her amazing talents in the kitchen with outstanding music artists! Here, she cooks with bass Kevin Thompson.
#13 “Aida and her Daughters with soprano Laquita Mitchell-Soprano Laquita Mitchell hosted a variety of conversations during the pandemic, but this was definitely a favorite, featuring leading AIDAs Angela M. Brown, Latonia Moore and Indra Thomas.
#14 “Virtual Hallelujah” with Baltimore Choral Arts-Conductor Anthony Blake Clark and Baltimore Choral Arts united voices from around the world in Handel’s most beloved chorus.
#15 “Conversations with Heritage” with The Heritage Signature Chorale-The Heritage Signature Chorale led engaging conversations with outstanding Black leaders in music and the performing arts. Revisit this episode with Dr. James Abbington, Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
#16 “Faithful Fridays” with soprano Angel Blue-The charming soprano Angel Blue hosts her inspirational show on Fridays with conversations with musical figures in the performing arts world. Here, she interviews soprano Golda Schultz.
#17 “Baltimore Musicales”-Baltimore Musicales provided several virtual opportunities for artists to share their talents. Watch this performance of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Roun'” by composer Jasmine Barnes.
#18 “Feel the Spirit”-Courtney’s Stars of Tomorrow-Visionary Courtney Carey partnered with baritone Thomas Hampson’s Hampsong Foundation on IDAGIO to present these outstanding singers. Click the video for the preview of the program and learn how to purchase the full concert if still available.
#19 LA Opera presents bass Morris Robinson in recital-The powerhouse bass presented a virtual recital at his Atlanta home. Morris has been on this journey of advocating for equality and racial justice in classical music for a long time and this musical program is only a fraction of the power of his voice.
#20 TWC TV with The Washington Chorus-Now what fun would this be if I did not exhibit just a tad of vanity. But seriously, I was honored to be named Guest Host and Creative Producer of The Washington Chorus’ TWC TV. The brainchild of TWC Executive Director and Inaugural Host Stephen Beaudoin, I was flattered to be invited by him to become the series next host. This episode features an interview with composer Damien Geter.
A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music from Shenandoah Conservatory. Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications, including The Washington Post, Early Music America Classical Music Voice North America, The Afro-American Newspaper, CBS Washington and Examiner.com. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., The American Choral Directors’ Association, a member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Board of Directors and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD and serves on the music faculty of Virginia State University where he teaches applied voice, music appreciation and assist with the University Concert Choir. Visit http://www.patrickdmccoy.com