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VIDEO: Roberta Gumbel Performs 'Beautiful Brown Boy' From DWB (DRIVING WHILE BLACK)

This chamber opera for soprano, cello and percussion connects with the essential conversation of our day: systemic racism. 

See the newly released video for "My Beautiful Brown Boy" from "dwb (driving while black)"

The critically acclaimed monodrama dwb (driving while black), with music by Susan Kander and libretto by Roberta Gumbel was released on Albany Records (Troy1858) in March, 2021. This chamber opera for soprano, cello and percussion connects with the essential conversation of our day: systemic racism.

Coinciding with Juneteenth (the June 19 holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.) Kander and Gumbel release an excerpt from the video performance of the opera. A lullaby for our time, "My Beautiful Brown Boy" is sung by Ms. Gumbel and accompanied by New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion). View the video here or stream the audio on Spotify.

"Six syllables to express a mother's love to her child, her dreams and worries for him: 'You are not who they see'," write Kander and Gumbel. "With these six short words, she acknowledges that his future hinges on a hard truth of American history going all the way back to 1619. We offer this lullaby, My Beautiful Brown Boy, in the hope that while it's still true today, it will be less true tomorrow."

dwb documents the story of an African American parent raising a teenage boy as he approaches driving age. What should be a celebration of independence and maturity turns out to be fraught with the anxiety of driving while black. We are taken through 16 years of a Black mother's interactions with her young son, during which the Mother relates to her child as a passenger in her car as her child grows up. Threaded between these scenes are vignettes based on real incidents. The singer takes on a variety of characters in specific but familiar events, relating the dangerous world beyond the Mother's control.


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