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VIDEO: John Holiday Sings Tyshawn Sorey's SAVE THE BOYS

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Galvanized by 2020's protests against racism and police brutality, Opera Philadelphia Composer in Residence Tyshawn Sorey began writing new works for voice about race in America, to serve as an extension of, and in some ways a departure from, Cycles of My Being, his 2018 song cycle exploring the realities of life as a Black man in America today. He found inspiration in "Save the Boys," an 1887 poem by abolitionist, writer, and Black women's rights activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911). Sorey's 20-minute piece based on the poem, which he composed for renowned countertenor John Holiday and pianist Grant Loehnig, premieres on Friday, Feb. 12, on the Opera Philadelphia Channel, launching a series of four digital commissions set to debut on the channel in 2021.

Sorey says Harper's text spoke to him in the wake of the increase of recent murders of Black men and women across the United States and serves as a testament to the ongoing plight of Black America. "'Save the Boys' was as relevant during the Reconstruction Era as it is during the present time," Sorey says. "It rei??ects our daily life experiences as Black Americans and the day-to-day precarity in which we continue to live."

"There are experiences that I have had, as a young African-American boy and as an adult, which speak directly to this text and the importance of saving our boys...saving our girls...saving our children," Holiday said in a recent interview. "Because of those experiences, I would like to think that helps me to bring this poignant text to life."

For Holiday, the world premiere marks a return to opera following an adventurous 2020 after COVID-19 shut down many of the world's opera stages. Known to Philadelphia audiences for creating the role of John Blue in 2017's hit world premiere We Shall Not Be Moved, the 35-year-old Texas native impressed television audiences worldwide as a member of John Legend's team on NBC's "The Voice," reaching the finals while lending his incredible range to songs like Ella Fitzgerald's "Misty," Stevie Wonder's "Summer Soft," and Eric Carmen's "All By Myself."

Save the Boys is the first of four digital works commissioned for the Opera Philadelphia Channel in 2021. Additional commissions, composed by Courtney Bryan, Angélica Negrón, and Caroline Shaw, will premiere between February and April 2021. Each work will be available for seven-day rentals for $10 or unlimited on-demand viewing for $99 Season Pass holders through May 31, 2021. A four-work bundle is also available for $25. Visit operaphila.tv for details.



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