Fort Worth Opera Proudly Announces Line-Up of Extraordinary Artists for A Night of Black Excellence
Part of FWO’s milestone 75th anniversary season, this live February 20 concert will feature acclaimed opera singers Michelle Johnson, Limmie Pulliam, Audra Scott, Karen Slack, Brandie Sutton, Veronica Williams, composer/vocalist Jasmine Barnes, Lesley Resident Artist Brandon Bell, bassist Laesio Littlejohn, flutist Malcolm Payne, virtuoso pianists Dr. Gregory Thompson and Joseph Williams, David W. Carter High School Choir, Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble, and Sheran Goodspeed Keyton Gospel Ensemble featuring pianist Myles Tate.
Fort Worth Opera announces continued alliance with the Tarrant County Pearls Chapter of The Society, Incorporated and new partnership with Ego Tequila, owned by Fort Worth entrepreneur Rikki Kelly, as the official sponsors of the company’s Black History Month performances and A Night of Black Excellence: Say It Loud - Songs of a Revolution.
Fort Worth Opera (FWO) announced today the starry line-up of internationally renowned artists headlining the company’s second annual celebration of Black History Month, A Night of Black Excellence: Say It Loud - Songs of a Revolution. This inspiring virtual concert proved to be the most successful event of the organization’s 2020-2021 season, and on February 20, 2022, at 2:00 pm, it will return with live performances at the 900-seat auditorium of Fort Worth’s historic I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and VPA. Co-curated and co-hosted by Metropolitan Opera superstar soprano Karen Slack and FWO General Director Afton Battle, this eagerly anticipated concert will feature rousing performances by renowned opera singers Michelle Johnson, Limmie Pulliam, Audra Scott, Karen Slack, Brandie Sutton, Veronica Williams, bassist Laesio Littlejohn, FWO Lesley Resident Artist Brandon Bell, composer/vocalist Jasmine Barnes, flutist Malcolm Payne, virtuoso pianists Dr. Gregory Thompson and Joseph Williams, and Sheran Goodspeed Keyton Gospel Ensemble, featuring pianist Myles Tate.
For the first time in company history, Fort Worth Opera will collaborate with Dallas’s award-winning David W. Carter High School Choir under the direction of Demetrius Ethley. This talented group will provide soul-stirring choral/backing vocals for several performances, most notably as part of the grand finale with the exhilarating Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble and the entire cast of the show. The concert will feature works by Cyrus Chestnut, Duke Ellington, Shawn Okpebholo, Nina Simone, original pieces composed and performed by Veronica Williams and Jasmine Barnes, and beloved classics by Puccini, Verdi, Massenet, and other great operatic composers.
“I am incredibly proud to join this amazing cast of American artists in celebration of Black excellence, says soprano Karen Slack. “After last year's overwhelmingly successful virtual concert, we are all anticipating a spectacular IN PERSON event bringing the people of Ft. Worth together for a thrilling evening of culture and the arts!
This second installment of Fort Worth Opera’s tribute to Black artistry and ingenuity will highlight arias, songs, and instrumental works written exclusively by Black and Afro-Latino(a) composers. As FWO steps to the forefront of the industry as true leaders in equity, diversity, and inclusion, both on and off the stage, the company is excited to once again honor the vast cultural heritage and indelible contributions of Black musicians, composers, and librettists. Not only will FWO pay homage to many pioneering Black artists and innovators of the past, but A Night of Black Excellence will feature some of the most extraordinary Black artists currently dominating the global opera and classical music scenes.
"General Director Afton Battle's curation reflects an unequivocal investment in Fort Worth's Black community. She is a strategist and visionary who tirelessly cultivates Black ecosystems on and off stage,” says pianist Joseph Williams. “I'm thrilled for her to join forces with internationally celebrated soprano Karen Slack, whose multifaceted advocacy is unparalleled in our field. I see these sisters as griots devoted to illuminating multiplicities of the Black experience through art and story."
"I am deeply honored to serve as one of the pianists and arrangers for A Night of Black Excellence. In the context of Kujichagulia, ANOBE beckons Black artists to define themselves and shape their own narratives. This is of utmost importance not only to the operatic community but to society at large. The versatility and talent of this cast are off the chain!"
I.M. Terrell opened its doors in 1882 in the Butler Place Historic District as the city’s first Black school during the era of formal racial segregation in the United States and has produced many prominent 20th and 21st century luminaries. These individuals include musicians Ornette Coleman, John Carter, Kurtis King, and Charles Moffett, author and educator Lillian B. Horace, Civil Rights leader Vada Phillips Felder, Opal Lee, “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” and Tuskegee Airman Robert T. McDaniel. Closed in 1973 during racial integration of Fort Worth’s schools, it reopened in 1998 as I.M. Terrell Elementary School. Following a restoration and construction project, it opened again in 2018 as I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and VPA.
“It was a pleasure getting to work with Ms. Battle and her team at the Fort Worth Opera for A Night of Black Excellence,” says I.M. Terrell Principal Baldwin R. Brown. This was a very inspiring event that shed light on a lot of the great work that is coming out of the African American community and our African American Leaders. I was humbled and honored to be able to participate in this momentous event, and I look forward to the second, live edition in the near future.”
This season, Fort Worth Opera is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Rikki Kelly, trailblazing young entrepreneur, CEO and Founder of EGO Tequila, the first Black female-owned tequila brand in the state of Texas, and only the third in the United States. Based locally here in Fort Worth and sourced from an award-winning distillery in the heart of Jalisco, Mexico, EGO tequila will serve as one of the official sponsors of A Night of Black Excellence: Say It Loud - Songs of a Revolution and FWO’s Black History Month performances.
“It’s very important to showcase black talent and recognize that it is often overlooked," says Rikki Kelly. “That is why we are thrilled to be working with Fort Worth Opera and very excited to be sponsoring their Night of Black Excellence. We look forward to seeing all of the beautiful black talent that is here in Fort Worth.”
Additionally, the company is proud to announce that last season’s partners, the Tarrant County Pearls Chapter of The Society, Incorporated, will return as official sponsors to support our community endeavors throughout the month of February 2022. Formed in the fall of 2020, the Tarrant County Pearls Chapter is part of The Society, Incorporated, a highly revered national non-profit organization of women, dedicated to enhancing, exposing, and promoting youth in the arts for the betterment our communities. Focusing on under-served children, they provide support for young literary, visual, and performing artists. Founded 37 years ago in Washington, D.C. The Society, Incorporated now has 30 chapters in 15 states across the United States.
A Night of Black Excellence: Say It Loud - Songs of a Revolution
Sponsored by North Texas Community Foundation Fund to Advance Racial Equity, the Tarrant County Pearls Chapter of The Society, Incorporated, and Ego Tequila
February 20, 2022, at 2:00 pm CT
I.M. Terrell Academy of STEM & VPA
Co-curated and co-hosted by American soprano Karen Slack and FWO General Director Afton Battle
Starring Michelle Johnson, Limmie Pulliam, Audra Scott, Karen Slack, Brandie Sutton, Veronica Williams, composer/vocalist Jasmine Barnes, Brandon Bell, bassist Laesio Littlejohn, flutist Malcolm Payne, virtuoso pianists Dr. Gregory Thompson and Joseph Williams, David W. Carter High School Choir under the direction of Demetrius Ethley, Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble, and Sheran Goodspeed Keyton Gospel Ensemble featuring pianist Myles Tate.
Featuring works by Cyrus Chestnut, Duke Ellington, Shawn Okpebholo, Nina Simone, original pieces composed and performed by Veronica Williams and Jasmine Barnes, and classics by Puccini, Verdi, Massenet, and others.
A Night of Black Excellence Production Team: Sheran Goodspeed Keyton
(FWO Director of COT Production & Civic Impact)
- Producer and Director
Tyrinika Marie (Sr. Manager of Artistic and Production Administration)
- Production Manager
Charles W. Bush (Founder of Appointed Productions)
- Video Production
Tickets are $75 (Front Orchestra), $55 (Back Orchestra), and $35 (Balcony).
$125 VIP tickets include seating in the Front Orchestra and exclusive access to the Post-Show Reception, featuring food, specialty drinks, and an artist meet and greet.
Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.fwopera.org/anightofblackexcellence or by contacting Fort Worth Opera’s box office at 817.731.0726, Tuesday-Thursday, 9 am–5 pm CST.