Tulsa Opera's GREENWOOD OVERCOMES To Be Broadcast Nationally

Hosted by GBH's Arun Rath, Greenwood Overcomes features works by 23 living Black composers.

By: May. 17, 2022
Tulsa Opera's GREENWOOD OVERCOMES To Be Broadcast Nationally

Public media producer GBH presents Greenwood Overcomes, a special two-hour radio broadcast of the Tulsa Opera's 2021 concert commemorating the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Hosted by GBH's Arun Rath, Greenwood Overcomes features works by 23 living Black composers, performed by eight Black artists including mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves; soprano Leah Hawkins; soprano Leona Mitchell; tenor Issachah Savage; tenor Noah Stewart; mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann; bass Kevin Thompson; and bass-baritone Davóne Tines. The program, which included eight world premieres, was co-curated by Tulsa Opera Artistic Director and composer Tobias Picker and Metropolitan Opera Pianist and Assistant Conductor Howard Watkins, who featured as pianist throughout the broadcast.

Offered by GBH Music, home to the music channels and associated music content from Boston public media producer GBH, Greenwood Overcomes will be available to public media stations nationally through PRX starting on June 4, 2022. The program will air locally in Boston on CRB Classical 99.5 at 7 pm and will be available for on-demand streaming on the CRB Classical website at the same time.

Greenwood Overcomes weaves recordings from the original Tulsa Opera concert in with interviews of Tobias Picker, Howard Watkins and Davóne Tines to bring listeners on a journey through the events of the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. From May 31-June 1, 1921, mobs of white residents decimated the Greenwood neighborhood, also known as "Black Wall Street," murdering hundreds of Black residents, destroying six thousand Black-owned businesses and rendering thousands homeless. Through powerful music and contextual conversations, Greenwood Overcomes highlights both the massacre and the community's work to heal.

"With Greenwood Overcomes, Tulsa Opera wanted to honor the innocent victims of the Tulsa massacre with a celebration of life featuring works by 23 living Black composers performed by eight Black singers and including eight world premieres," said Tobias Picker, artistic director of the Tulsa Opera. "I am pleased to say that we have invited many of the singers who took part in this historic concert back to Tulsa Opera and it is gratifying to know that these voices and this music will resonate beyond Tulsa with this GBH broadcast."

Greenwood Overcomes features Tulsa Opera commissions by 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis; composer and pianist Stewart Goodyear; composer and conductor James Lee III; and Florence Price Award-winning composer Nkeiru Okoye and two premieres by Haitian composer David Bontemps. Mr. Davis' aria, "There are Many Trails of Tears," is from Fire Across the Tracks: Tulsa 1921, an opera he is developing with librettist Thulani Davis based on the massacre. "There are Many Trails of Tears" is based on a first-hand account of the massacre written by a young lawyer, Buck Colbert Franklin, who was of African American and Choctaw descent, and who witnessed the murder of three men amongst other traumatic events.

"As soon as we learned about this program-which so beautifully lifts the voices of Black classical artists and composers-I was committed to bringing this incredible concert to as wide an audience as possible," said Anthony Rudel, General Manager of GBH Music. "From the outset, we set out to present these stunning performances in a way that placed them in a historical context and also within the vibrant framework of music in today's world. The GBH Music team, the talented Arun Rath, the guests, and the performers have taken this concert and created a listening experience that continues to shine a spotlight on an important episode in our history. Greenwood Overcomes was in the final stages of production during the horrific racist attack in Buffalo this weekend, a reminder of the violence and hate still alive in our culture. It is our hope that the program promotes healing and our shared humanity, when it is needed most."

The broadcast also features works by H. Leslie Adams, Peter Ashbourne, Jasmine Barnes, Kathryn Bostic, B.E. Boykin, Valerie Capers, Roland Carter, Melanie DeMore, Marques L. A. Garrett, Adolphus Hailstork, Tania León, Quinn Mason, Andre Myers, Rosephanye Powell, Carlos Simon, Damien Sneed, Tyshawn Sorey, and Nolan Williams, Jr. Greenwood Overcomes concludes with Denyce Graves and the whole company singing J. Rosamond Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a powerful and uplifting song, often referred to as "the Black National anthem."

"To be part of such a significant event was a truly remarkable experience and, as the collaborating pianist, I can say that these performances were charged with emotion, both on the stage and off," said Howard Watkins, co-curator of the event. "This was an important concert recognizing and acknowledging the horrific events of 1921 with music as a conduit for grief, anger, healing, and love."

Greenwood Overcomes was produced by GBH producer and host Alan McLellan and edited by GBH's Grammy-award winning audio engineer, Antonio Oliart Ros.


Howard Watkins, piano
Arun Rath, host
Commentary by Tobias Picker, Howard Watkins and Davóne Tines

DAMIEN SNEED: "Down By the Riverside"
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano

JASMINE BARNES: "Sweet, Sweet Spirit"
Leona Mitchell, soprano

TYSHAWN SOREY: after "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" from Songs of Death
Davóne Tines, bass-baritone

Leah Hawkins, soprano

PETER ASHBOURNE: "Nobody's Business"
Leah Hawkins, soprano

H. Leslie Adams: "Prayer"
Issachah Savage, tenor

H. Leslie Adams: "Creole Girl"
Noah Stewart, tenor

MARQUES L.A. GARRETT: "O del mio amato ben" from A Love Cycle
Leona Mitchell, soprano

ADOLPHUS HAILSTORK: "My Heart to Thy Heart"
Krysty Swann, mezzo-soprano

TANIA LEÓN: "Mi amor es"
Kevin Thompson, bass

STEWART GOODYEAR: "One Perfect Rose"
setting of a poem by Dorothy Parker
Leah Hawkins, soprano

setting of a poem by Dorothy Parker
(Commissioned by Tulsa Opera)
Noah Stewart, tenor

Kathryn Bostic: "State of Grace"
Words and music by Kathryn Bostic
Krysty Swann, mezzo-soprano

NKEIRU OKOYE: "Inside Is What Remains"
Words and music by Nkeiru Okoye
(Commissioned by Tulsa Opera)
Leona Mitchell, soprano

NKEIRU OKOYE: "A Kiss On the Forehead"
Lyrics by Anita Gonzalez
Issachah Savage, tenor

B.E. BOYKIN: "Secret"
Leah Hawkins, soprano

James Lee III: "Songs for the People"
setting of a poem by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
(Commissioned by Tulsa Opera)
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano

VALERIE CAPERS: "Billie's Song"
Howard Watkins, piano

DAVID BONTEMPS: "Il a neigé"
setting of a poem by Marie-Ange Jolicoeur
Kevin Thompson, bass

QUINN MASON: "Eclipsed World from Confessions From a Dream"
Noah Stewart, tenor

Roland Carter: "Is There Anybody Here?"
Issachah Savage, tenor

ANDRE MYERS: "Harlem Night Song"
Leah Hawkins, soprano

ROSEPHANYE POWELL: "I Want to Die While You Love Me"
Issachah Savage, tenor

Anthony Davis: "There are Many Trails of Tears" from Fire Across the Tracks: Tulsa 1921
Thulani Davis, librettist
(Commissioned by Tulsa Opera)
Davóne Tines, bass-baritone

CARLOS SIMON: "Prayer" (Gather Up)
Krysty Swann, mezzo-soprano

Nolan Williams, JR.: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"
Leona Mitchell, soprano

MELANIE DEMORE: "Sending You Light"
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano

J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954): "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
setting of a poem by James Weldon Johnson
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano; company; audience

Formed in 1948, Tulsa Opera is the first performing arts organization established in Oklahoma and the 10th oldest opera company in North America. The company excels at producing bold, brave, and fresh productions of opera classics, and accomplishes this by identifying excellent young singers, then pairing them with conductors and stage directors who can improve their artistic talents. In addition to presenting a main stage season, the company fosters young talent through its Tulsa Youth Opera and Resident Artist programs and promotes music education through outstanding initiatives such as Raise Your Voice!, a partnership with Tulsa Public Schools that brings music back into classrooms where music programs have been discontinued. Tulsa Opera, throughout its history, has articulated the desire of local leaders to create and maintain a world-class city. Opera is in Tulsa's DNA, and communication with opera patrons confirms that the Tulsa community has a robust-and now reinvigorated-commitment to the company's success. More information at TulsaOpera.com.


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