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 REVIEWS: “Remarkable series” Opera Grows in Brooklyn “an open-minded night of musical experimentation”

July 14, 2010

Galapagos Art Space was the place to be for another night of drinks and drama at Opera Grows in Brooklyn, the hit series from AOP and Opera on Tap.

Just look at what the blogs had to say…

Nicole Mitchell at Opera Grows in Brooklyn

Nicole Mitchell sings "Songs from Hood to Riches"

Parterrebox:

“…it seems clear that the Brooklyn hipster is destined to be the next audience for opera.”

“…once again some amazing surprises were presented by this rag-tag bunch of very experimental artists.”

“…the old and new guard of opera viewers mingled in an open-minded night of musical experimentation.”

Read full review

Opera Insider:

“I for one do not intend to miss another installment of this remarkable series!!! … the eclectic and sometimes challenging musical offerings [are] beautifully framed by the contemporary space and the relaxed, social atmosphere.”

Read full review

Adrienne Danrich performs the Calamus Songs

Adrienne Danrich

The July 9 show kicked off with the rousing set Brooklyn Poets – Past and Present, a combination of songs from AOP and the Walt Whitman Project’s Calamus Songs (Daniel Felsenfeld, Andrew Staniland) and “Songs from Hood to Riches” (Gilda Lyons). Soprano Adrienne Danrich and cellist Hamilton Berry drew thunderous applause for the Whitman settings and mezzo Nicole Mitchell continued her dramatic interpretations of Lyons’s songs based on the poetry of Brooklyn children featuring longtime AOP artist Kelly Horsted on the piano.

Ross Benoliel and Indre Viskontas get busy in the "Chamber"

Ross Benoliel and Indre Viskontas get busy in the "Chamber"

The night continued with singer/songwriter Corey Dargel’s Removable Parts, a disturbing and touching series of portraits about voluntary amputees featuring the incredible piano stylings of Kathleen Supové. Soprano Indre Viskontas and baritone Ross Benoliel brought sexy back with The Bloody Chamber by Daniel Felsenfeld, a new opera being developed by the former C&V composer (prolific, ain’t he?) and staged by the Vineyard Theater’s Sarah Stern.

Opera Grows in Brooklyn will return to Galapagos in 2010 on October 15 and December 10 with all new cutting edge scenes and songs. Mark your calendars now!


Whitman in Song travels up the Hudson

October 7, 2008
Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

This evening we will be performing our Walt Whitman in Song program in a special presentation for The Rockefeller Brothers Fund at Pocantico, the estate of John D. Rockefeller and home of Kykuit. We will be adding a new song to the program, premiering tonight – Gilda Lyons’s “Old Walt”, an a cappella piece for trio commissioned by AOP.

Walt Whitman in Song at Pocantico
Greg Trupiano, Walt Whitman Project, emcee
Kelly Horsted, music director and keyboard
Donna Smith, soprano
Adrienne Danrich, soprano
Matt Curran, bass

I C&V composers settings of Whitman texts:
“the silvery round moon” – Ray Lustig; (Donna)
“When lilacs last by the dooryard bloomed” – Jack Perla (Adrienne)
Wallabout Martyrs – Gilda Lyons, (Adrienne)
“O Me! O Life!” – Clint Borzoni (Matt)
“Old Walt” (Langston Hughs text) Gilda Lyons (Trio)

II Other composers with texts about or related to Whitman themes:
Aids Quilt song, deBlasio; Whitman text (Matt)
Star Spangled Banner with unpublished words by Whitman (Donna)
Hymn – “ My Days are Swiftly gliding by” Whitman weaves into “Speciman Days” (Donna)

III Other song texts with themes related to Whitman themes:
“Lady of the Harbor” – Lee Hoiby (Adrienne)
“Black Max,” Bill Bolcom (Matt)
“Jewel Song” from Gounod’s FAUST (Adrienne)
Duet from Mozart’s GIOVANNI (Adrienne and Matt)


Plans announced for C&V 2008-09 season

July 16, 2008
Steven Osgood guides composers in a previous season of Composers & the Voice.

Steven Osgood guides composers in a previous season of Composers & the Voice.

Created in 2002 by former AOP Artistic Director Steven Osgood, Composers & the Voice – AOP’s nationally recognized annual composer workshop series – has not just been a training ground for emerging composers, but also an incubator for dozens of new operatic works over the years. AOP has announced that the 2008-09 season of Composers & the Voice will focus exclusively on the development and presentation of the works of C&V alumni.

AOP Executive Director Charles Jarden states, “The new season will allow audiences and financial sponsors more access to the music from the workshop program that has traditionally been closed to the public.” Funders that joined the growing supporters of this unique fellowship offered to composers include The BMI Foundation and The Virgil Thomson Foundation.

This summer has already seen partnering organizations such as The Walt Whitman Project, Opera on Tap, and Make Music NY create programs around C&V songs, delighting audiences from Theater Ten Ten in Manhattan to the feisty back room bar at Freddy’s in Ft. Greene Brooklyn. In October, C&V Six Scenes 08, the final presentations of the 2007-08 composer class, will be held in Brooklyn. In the 2008-09 Season, C&V will not be accepting new proposals or applications. Composers and librettists are requested to keep checking the website for updates.


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