AOP Brings Brooklyn Voices to 5×10 Talks

May 21, 2014

On Tuesday, May 6, 2014, AOP was asked to be a part of the inaugural 5×10 Talks, an event organized by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to showcase innovation in the neighborhood.

The event- which raised funds to support the DBP’s year-round public programming and was held at the brand-new BRIC Arts | Media House– highlighted five leaders from Downtown Brooklyn to answer the question, “What’s next?”

Under their I HEAR AMERICA SINGING program, AOP featured two of composer Gilda Lyons’ songs, rapid transit and “I am From the Ghetto ‘Brooklyn'” (the latter from her cycle Songs from the F Train), and three of their regular performers, soprano Adrienne Danrich, contralto Nicole Mitchell, and pianist Mila Henry. In addition, young poet Najaya Royale read her original text for “I Am From the Ghetto ‘Brooklyn'”, which she wrote when she was only 12 years old.

Wanna find out what else is “next”? Watch clips from the entire event here, and check out photos here.

And thanks to a partnership with Brooklyn Independent Media, you can watch a SPECIAL BROADCAST of the 5×10 Talks from 6-7:30pm on May 24th, May 25th, May 31st, and June 1st. Tune in on Brooklyn’s Time Warner Cable 756, Verizon FiOS 46 (all five boroughs), and online at BRIC Brooklyn Indie Media.


Najaya Royal Lives Her Dreams

March 26, 2012

Najaya Royal and Wes MooreOn March 16-17th, Adobe Youth Voices held six workshop sessions on creating music videos and portrait documentaries as part of WNET’s Celebration of Teaching & Learning conference.  The highlight of the conference was a panel discussion on creating a difference in the lives of young people through education, led by NYTimes best-selling author Wes Moore .  And who was one of the participants ?  15 year-old Najaya Royal, who has written poetry for AOP’s I Hear America Singing-commissioned song cycles Songs from the F Train and Brooklyn Cinderella.Songs from the F Train

Najaya suggested creating an outlet for students to express themselves, perhaps through having schoolteachers becoming directly aware of their students’ interests, and then incorporating those interests into subjects they’re struggling with.  “Don’t be afraid to help yourself,” she said, later adding,”We all have a dream.  But it’s your choice to go after that dream.”

Najaya’s dream is to combine her writing and musical talents (she also plays the violin and saxophone) into the career of a music journalist.  So far, we think she’s done an excellent job.

Want to learn more about Najaya’s influences in following her dreams?  Click here.


Young AOP Poet featured on Patch.com

April 6, 2011

Samori Covington, a young poet based in Brooklyn, has already had her work turned into a song, performed by an opera singer, and premiered at Carnegie Hall.  And she’s only 12 years old!

Samori, who wrote the poem “When Randa Wears Red” when she was just 8 years old , was part of the Phat Phun Tuesdays workshop headed by Angeli Rasbury at the Eastern Parkway and New Lots branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, along with two other girls, Alexis Cummings and Najaya Royal.  Each girl had one of their poems selected for the I Hear America Singing initiative, founded by Greg Trupiano of The Walt Whitman Project and our very own Executive Director Charles Jarden, which were then turned into the song cycle Songs from the F Train by composer Gilda Lyons.

The songs were premiered in the Fort Greene Literary Festival in 2009, although they’ve since been performed at Galapagos Art Space, Cave Canem, and Restoration, not to mention that musical behemoth called Carnegie Hall.  Samori’s involvement recently caught the attention of the the online newsletter for Bed-Stuy, Patch.com, which features local news about the Brooklyn region.  The Patch article also includes a sound clip of “When Randa wears Red,” featuring mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell.

After Songs from the F Train made its initial debut, three more songs were commissioned for Gilda Lyons, and her follow-up cycle, Songs from the A Train, made its debut as well.  In fact, the initiative has been so successful that AOP and The Walt Whitman Project will commission another three songs through Angeli’s Phat Phun Tuesdays, with performances scheduled for this June in Fort Greene Park.

But is Samori phased by all this well-deserved success?  Not one bit.  She admittedly still uses a script when she reads her poem aloud.  Though she does want to be a writer when she grows up.  Or a pediatrician.  Or a scientist.

 

L-R: Najaya Royal, Alexis Cummings, Samori Covington, and Angeli Rasbury


Young Poets Inspire Opera, Opera Inspires Young Poets

August 6, 2010

On a hot summer morning, the Brooklyn Library’s Dweck Auditorium is filled with children (along with their parents and a few other adults) craning their necks to watch five of their fellow students, one by one, take the stage and recite poetry. Not just any poetry, but their own. Poetry that talked about loving Brooklyn, about hating Brooklyn, about being shy, about being ambitious, about looking good in a dress, about living large in a mansion. Moments after these five students, ranging in ages from 6 to 13, had finished reading – some shyly, some proudly, all bravely – they took their seats and all watched as  mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell and pianist Kelly Horsted walked on the stage. A few seconds later they heard the poetry again, this time expressed in powerful song.

IHAS at the Dweck Auditorium

I Hear America Singing at the Dweck Auditorium, July 19, 2010. (l. to r. The Walt Whitman Project Artistic Director Greg Trupiano, poet Tyler Forsythe, poetry mentor Angeli Rasbury, poet Tristan Regist, composer Gilda Lyons, poet Keanu Stowe, poet Alexis Cummings, AOP General Director Charles Jarden, mother Angeline Keller, poet Samori Covington, pianist Kelly Horsted, singer Nicole Mitchell)

This was I Hear America Singing, the initiative by American Opera Projects and the Walt Whitman Project to transform the words of ordinary Americans into opera, and its first two song cycles composed by Gilda Lyons – “Songs from the F Train,” premiered in June 2009, and “Songs from the A Train,” premiered on this summer morning July 19, 2010 at the Dweck Auditorium, with all but one of the six young poets in attendance.

Among the enraptured faces was Mr. Jim Vogel, Spokesperson for State Senator Velmanette Montgomery whose district covers a huge swath of Brooklyn from Ocean Hill to Fort Greene and down to Sunset Park.  Mr. Vogel was proud to tell everyone that these young poets were to going to be recognized by the NY State Legislature for their hard work and inspirational voices. The students smiled to learn how far their voices had traveled and how many people had been listening. (And to learn how politics work. They would have been officially presented with this recognition that morning in the form of a framed Proclamation… but Albany first had to complete their months-delayed budget.)

Later, their writing mentor Angeli Rasbury asked the students to express themselves yet again, but this time with a focus on what they felt when they heard Ms. Mitchell, a Brooklyn native herself, sing.

When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, I hear a talented opera voice in my ears.
I feel very happy to hear her beautiful voice singing, letting all her emotions out.
I hear and see the birds flying high.
I hear the crickets singing and the butterfly flying joyfully through the sky.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell I look back in the days when black people were slaves singing and working hard to get their freedom.
I imagine Nicole back there in time singing to her freedom, singing when will she be free.
When I hear that song it makes me feel proud of black people, of how far we have come,  to this stage right now. When I hear people like Nicole Mitchell, my day keeps getting better and better.
–  Rood Dorestil, 13 years old

When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, I feel happy and think I’m in heaven.
I hear trees whistling in the breeze.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell, I can imagine different colored flowers moving slowly from side to side.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, I am joyful.
I feel like a red leaf.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, I feel like I am in beautiful, lush Barbados.
I feel Nicole Mitchell is a beautiful singer.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, she sounds excited to be alive.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, I feel free.
When I hear Nicole Mitchell sing, I feel like a pretty slave who has been freed.
–    Aliah Gilkes, 10 years old

master tell me i’m his slave
no i say i’m a flow of music
i’m not a slave
don’t believe such foolishness of your white community
i hear the the voices of opera
and feel the beat of opera
i hear the piano of the flat boards
that used to be teeth
the loud voices saying
you go girl
that my people is pure music!
–  Eva Taylor, 9 years old

This is only the beginning of I Hear America Singing. In the 2010-11 season AOP will branch out with new performances and new songs. There are many voices yet to be heard. Visit www.operaprojects.org throughout the year to discover when and where to hear them.


AOP Celebrates RFK at Brooklyn Memorial Party

February 26, 2010
Nicole Mitchell and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

AOP mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

On December 12, 2009, AOP was invited to present “Songs from the F Train”  during The RFK Memorial Holiday Party at the Youth Arts Academy in Brooklyn.  Distinguished guest  Robert Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator and Attorney General, had the opportunity to listen to mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell sing through the trio of songs. Pianist Christopher Berg accompanied the  performance held at the Restoration Plaza.

Residents of Bedford Stuyvesant joined parents and children to form an audience of over 250.  AOP’s performance of “Songs from the F Train” furthered Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s mission to promote the growth of arts and culture in central Brooklyn.

The first commissioned work of AOP’s  I Hear America Singing, “Songs from the F Train” is a setting of poems by three Brooklyn students ages 9-12. The poems were written in a poetry workshop led by Brooklyn writer Angeli Rasbury in Fort Greene Park, and set to music by composer Gilda Lyons.


AOP Brings the Music to OPERA America Dinner

February 26, 2010

J. David Jackson (far left) conducts (l. to r.) Richard Bernstein, Nicole Mitchell, Matt Morgan, Sarah Moulton, Heather Meyers, and Sarah Nelson Craft in scenes from Kamrain Ince's JUDGMENT OF MIDAS

On February 20, AOP had the exclusive honor of providing a selection of its works as the musical entertainment for OPERA America‘s annual National Opera Trustee Recognition Awards Dinner. The notables from the opera world were regaled by a performance of Songs from the F Train and excerpts from Kamran Ince’s opera-in-progress Judgment of Midas. The event was held at the University Club in Midtown Manhattan.

Mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell sang Gilda Lyons‘ trio of “Songs From the F Train” at the top of the evening with Thomas Bagwell accompanying on piano. A co-commission from AOP, Fort Greene Park Conservancy and The Walt Whitman Project, “Songs from the F Train” is a setting of poems by three Brooklyn students between the ages of 9 and 12. Since its premiere last summer at the Make Music NY festival, it has been programmed on numerous occasions throughout the city.

Kamran Ince

To finish the evening, Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince was on hand to debut new music from his developing opera Judgment of Midas with authentic Turkish instruments providing the gateway into the setting of this ancient Greek myth set in the composer’s ancestral homeland.  Met Opera Maestro J. David Jackson, accompanied by fellow music director Jonathan Khuner, conducted Met baritone Richard Bernstein as Apollo in his musical duel with NYCO tenor Matt Morgan‘s forest god Pan.  Nicole Mitchell, Sarah Nelson Craft, Sarah Moulton, and Heather Meyer also sang the evening to a close.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle profiles Opera Grows in Brooklyn

July 16, 2009

New Opera Takes Center Stage At Galapagos in DUMBO

by Brooklyn Eagle (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 07-15-2009
Girls on the F Train and The Witches of BushwickBy Zoe Thomas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

DUMBO – The opera is coming to town, but in this case you won’t need binoculars, tuxedos or even an expensive ticket to get in.

“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” will have its second installment at the Galapagos Art Center in DUMBO tomorrow, presented by American Opera Projects (AOP) and Opera on Tap.

read full article


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