Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Legendary Soprano Kathleen Battle To Sing Spirituals With Local Choirs


American soprano Kathleen Battle's luminous voice has been called "...without qualification, one of the very few most beautiful in the world" (The Washington Post ). Yet beyond the glory of her singing, in a career filled with countless accolades, honors and major milestones, what has perhaps distinguished her most is her almost magical ability to create an unwavering bond with her audience. Returning to Seattle for the first time in two decades, the legendary opera star takes the stage at the University of Washington's Meany Hall on April 14, 2018, to explore traditional spirituals and the writings of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. She is joined by acclaimed jazz pianist Joel Martin and local choirs The Sound of the Northwest and UW Chamber Singers.

Tickets for Kathleen Battle:Underground Railroad-A Spiritual Journey are on sale now. Tickets start at $125 and may be purchased by phone at 206-543-4880, online, or in person at the ArtsUW Ticket Office. The performance takes place at Meany Hall, located on the Seattle campus of the University of Washington.


Kathleen Battle: Underground Railroad-A Spiritual Journey is a program of music inspired by the journey to freedom along the Underground Railroad, the 19th-century network of safe houses that allowed African-Americans to escape from slavery. Ms. Battle said. "Spirituals have the power to uplift and to heal, and we certainly need that in today's world. This is a program, which brings together my musical background and my cultural heritage."

The concert program will feature numerous well-known Spirituals, gospel and traditional pieces, including "Lord, How Come Me Here?," "Go Down, Moses," "Wade in the Water," "Roll, Jordan, Roll," "City Called Heaven," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "I Don't Feel No-Ways Tired," "Fix Me, Jesus," "Balm in Gilead," and "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn You Me Roun'."

In writing about Ms. Battle's performance at the Metropolitan Opera in 2016, The New York Times' Anthony Tommasini said, "Ms. Battle sang with remarkable freshness and beauty...she sent high phrases soaring and sang with ethereal elegance. These spirituals clearly touch her deeply. The focus of the program was the Underground Railroad, the secret network of 'conductors' and 'pilots' who, at enormous risk, helped thousands of slaves in the South find safe havens and nighttime routes to freedom in the North. The final standing ovation was tumultuous."

ABOUT SOPRANO Kathleen Battle

The range of Kathleen Battle's repertoire spans three centuries from the Baroque era to contemporary works. She has enjoyed some of her greatest successes in the opera house in repertoire ranging from Handel to Richard Strauss. For her Covent Garden debut as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Ms. Battle became the first American to be honored with a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a New Opera Production. She has similarly distinguished herself as one of our generation's finest interpreters of Mozart, as well as the Bel Canto operas of Rossini and Donizetti. In the words of critic Tim Page, "Ms. Battle's natural territory is music of sweetness, serenity and girlish ecstasy. Within this repertoire she is all but unequaled."

Kathleen Battle's gifts as a singer extend beyond the realm of classical music. Her work as a great interpreter of spirituals is documented on a joint recital with Jessye Norman, Spirituals in Concert (DG). Her pure emotional power in this music of joy and sorrow cuts through all cultural boundaries. As the Vienna Kurier put it, "Kathleen Battle sang so beautifully in the spiritual 'Heaven is one beautiful place,' she came pretty close to heaven."

Ms. Battle drew considerable attention with the world premiere of Honey and Rue, a song cycle with music by Oscar and Grammy-winning composer André Previn and lyrics by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, commissioned for Ms. Battle by Carnegie Hall on the event of their 100th anniversary. Since then, she has performed the work with leading orchestras and in recital throughout the world. The recording of this cycle was released by DG, on a disc which also includes Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and arias from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

Always seeking to expand her artistic horizons, Ms. Battle was joined by leading jazz musicians for her first crossover album, So Many Stars (Sony Classical), a collection of lullabies, spirituals, and folksongs. Commenting on her extraordinary gifts as a jazz artist, The Detroit News noted, "When Battle and her core jazz trio held the stage, the musical splendor was almost more than the ear could take in."

Since her student years, Kathleen Battle has collaborated with colleagues who rank among the world's most talented musicians. She has been a favorite soloist with the world's leading orchestras and esteemed conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti, Riccardo Muti, James Levine, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Mazell, Seiji Ozawa, Leonard Slatkin and Sir Neville Marriner. Her partnerships with soprano Jessye Norman, tenors Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, violinist Itzhak Perlman, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, guitarist Christopher Parkening, flautists Jean-Pierre Rampal and Hubert Laws, and the late saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., to name but a few, are documented on numerous recordings and video discs.

ABOUT Joel Martin

Pianist, producer, composer and arranger Joel Martin is the creator of Jazzical, a marriage of classical, jazz and more. In the last couple of years, he has collaborated with and written music for Grammy Award-winners Kathleen Battle, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, cellist Eugene Friesen of the Paul Winter Consort, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jaimoe of the Allman Brothers, among many other artists.

Joel was the youngest pianist ever, and the first African-American pianist, to compete in the 1985 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He has appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, El Paso Symphony, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, New Hampshire Festival Orchestra, Cab Calloway Orchestra and the Hartford Symphony.

In October 2013, Joel released his seventh Jazzical CD, Jazzical Meets Menken, honoring multiple Oscar-Grammy-Tony-Award-winning Disney and Broadway composer Alan Menken (Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, Enchanted, Pocahontas). With stellar performances by Broadway legends Liz Callaway, Amanda McBroom, Christine Pedi and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, Jazzical Meets Menken featured 14 songs, including two world premieres penned by Alan Menken specifically for this CD.

On July 18, 2014, at the capstone event of International Mandela Day celebrations at the United Nations, Joel produced Footsteps of Mandela, an all-star tribute concert to Nelson Mandela at N.Y.C.'s Riverside Church. Special guest artists included Metropolitan Opera bass and baritone legend Simon Estes, and Broadway singer Liz Callaway. A second Footsteps of Mandela concert was held in February 2015 in Bridgeport, Conn., at the Klein Memorial Auditorium to an enthusiastic audience of 1000 people.

Performances in 2016 included the debut concert and national tour of Joel's Footsteps of Peace in Palm Beach, Fla., concerts around the world with live house-music band Tortured Soul and two symphonic commissions. In 2017, he released the eighth CD in the Jazzical series, Jazzical Rocks! featuring the Jazzical Symphony Orchestra.


The Sound of the Northwest
Directed by Juan Huey-Ray
The Sound of the Northwest was founded in 1987 by Juan Huey-Ray for the purpose of preserving and presenting the music of the African-American heritage, particularly the Negro Spiritual. The Sound is an award-winning community chorus presenting concerts throughout the Puget Sound region.

UW Chamber Singers
Directed by Geoffrey Boers
The UW Chamber Singers consists of graduate and advanced undergraduate music majors studying choral conducting, vocal performance and music education, as well as many students from programs across campus. The Chamber Singers is the UW's longest-standing choral organization and has been featured at national and international festivals, conventions and workshops.


Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington fosters innovative performances that advance public engagement, cultural exchange, creative research and learning through the arts. Meany Center provides opportunities for diverse artists, community, students and faculty to connect in the discovery and exploration of the boundless power of the arts to create positive change in the world.


ArtsUW Ticket Office
Open Monday-Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Phone: (206) 543-4880
In Person: 1313 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98105
Online :

Prices: Regular single ticket prices start at $125.

Location and Parking: Meany Hall is located on the Seattle campus of the University of Washington, on 15th Avenue NE between NE 40th and 41st Streets. Parking for Meany Hall is available in the Central Parking Garage (entrance at 15th Avenue and 41st Street). On-street metered parking is also available.

Accessibility: The University of Washington is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation contact the Disability Services Office at least ten days in advance at: 206.543.6450/V, 206.543.6452/TTY, 206.685.7264 (FAX), or e-mail at

Related Articles View More Seattle Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You