“The Road We Came” press release
A THREE NEIGHBORHOOD MUSICAL WALKING TOUR OF NEW YORK CITY EXPLORES BLACK MUSIC HISTORY AND ITS LANDMARKS TO LEARN FROM THE PAST AND RE-FRAME THE PRESENT
A Multi-Media Collaboration with Award-Winning Historian, Grammy Nominated Baritone and Innovative Production Team Re-Define the Immersive and Site-Specific Music Experience
NEW YORK, February 10, 2021– On Site Opera, New York’s pioneering opera company rooted in site-specific storytelling and the immersive experience, is bringing music back to the streets of New York City with The Road We Came, a three-neighborhood musical walking tour that explores Black music history, May 1-July 31, 2021. In collaboration with Grammy nominated baritone and the project’s featured soloist Kenneth Overton, pianist Kevin J. Miller, award-winning biographer and Harlem historian Eric K. Washington who delivers the project’s narration, On Site Opera brings their signature production style to the historical neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, Midtown and Harlem to connect audiences to a musical timeline that begins with New York City’s earliest Black inhabitants and ends with the 2021 debut of the first African American composer at the Metropolitan Opera. With a story arc that can be enjoyed in a suggested order to tell an impactful narrative, or enjoyed singularly in any order, each self-guided tour will be approximately a 90-minute-long immersive musical experience that patrons can access through a walking tour app to experience tours in person or virtually from their mobile device. The musical series is co-produced and filmed by Ryan and Tonya McKinny’s Keep the Music Going Productions.
The project’s Lower Manhattan 3.2-mile tour begins at the solemn African Burial Ground National Monument, and will include several important locations in the city’s abolitionist history of the 19th century. Featuring music and texts by Harry T. Burleigh; Roland Marvin Carter, known by many as the “Dean of African-American Music;” and Damien Geter, whose works have been rooted in social justice, the tour will also highlight the contributions of Emmy nominated composer, vocalist, pianist and conductor, Dave Ragland; Dr. Lori Hicks, the youngest composer commissioned by the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation; and composer William Grant Still, the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra and to have an opera performed by both a major opera company and on national television.
The 2.5-mile Midtown Tour starts in Hell’s Kitchen and traces the African American musical experience through the early to the mid-20th century. From the old streets of San Juan Hill to Central Park and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the tour features the music and texts of many influential and groundbreaking artists including ragtime and jazz composer Eubie Blake, the first Black composer to write a full-length musical performed on Broadway; Will Marion Cook; as well as emerging music director, James Davis Jr. The influences of Jazz pioneer Duke Ellington; J. Rosamond Johnson, who was one of the most successful early African American composers; his brother James Weldon Johnson, a writer and civil rights activist; and celebrated white Broadway composer and producer Vincent Youmans whose beloved songs were introduced by Black artists are also woven into the historical time capsule of this iconic neighborhood that has been defined by art for many decades. The music of both the city’s recital halls and the dance halls will be featured on this tour, with special focus placed on the important historical performances by African American artists at Carnegie Hall and looking toward the significance of Terence Blanchard’s 2021 Metropolitan Opera debut, where he will be the first African American composer to be presented by the world-renowned company.
The 2.5-mile Harlem Tour brings audiences uptown to explore the great Harlem Renaissance—a time when African American achievements in art, music and literature flourished. Beginning at the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, this tour will feature music and texts by composer to have a composition played by a major orchestra Leslie Adams and Margaret Bonds, the latter being one of the first Black female composers to gain recognition in the United States. It will also spotlight the works of poet Julia Johnson Davis; and the renowned literary lion and social activist of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes. This lineage of artists and great works also goes on to include the first African American female symphonic composer, Florence Price; J. Rosamond Johnson and his sibling collaborator James Weldon Johnson; and finally, John Wesley Work III, a scholar of African American folklore and music. The tour highlights the hallowed ground trod by the seminal figures of the mid-20th century Black arts and culture in America while keeping a keen eye on the neighborhood that remains the musical soul of New York City.
“The African American presence is inextricably woven into the fabric of New York City’s storied past,” explains Eric K. Washington, the project’s historian and narrator. “The Road We Came offers a novel way to interpolate many of the missing threads of the Black experience so long omitted.” he continues. “Walking tours are often a first sampling of a more complex history to be plumbed, and I’m hoping audiences walk away with a host of new names, places and events they just can’t get enough of.” Baritone Kenneth Overton adds, “The project is quite a musical journey. With over 25 pieces we will be showcasing Negro spirituals, art songs and opera by some of the world’s greatest Black composers. I’ve been able to discover and rediscover some incredible composers both living and dead, men and women, contemporary and classic.”
PERFORMANCE and TICKETING INFORMATION
All tours will be available to purchase and experience at any time between May 1- July 31, 2021.
Individual tours will be available for $60 each, or all three for $165 and available for purchase https://osopera.org/productions/theroadwecame/
The Lower Manhattan Tour (approx. 90 min) will begin at the African Burial Ground National Monument at the corner of Duane Street and Elk Street, and end at the Former Colored School No. 4, located at 128 W 17th Street. The African Burial Ground National Monument is accessible by the 4, 5 and 6 trains to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall, the N, R, W to City Hall, and the A, C and 1, 2, 3 trains to Chambers Street.
The Midtown Tour (approx. 90 min) will begin at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 342 W 53rd St, and end at the site of the Silent Protest Parade of 1917 at the corner of 5th Ave and E 57th St. St. Benedict the Moor Church is accessible by the A, C, E, 1 and 2 trains to 50th Street, B, D, and E trains to 7th Avenue, 1, 2, A, B, C and D trains to 59th Street/Columbus Circle, and the N, Q, R and W trains to 57th Street.
The Harlem Tour (approx. 90 min) will begin at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at 515 Malcolm X Blvd, and end at the James Williams House at 226 W 138th St. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is accessible by the A, B, C, 2 and 3 trains to W135th Street.
All tours will be accessible through the PocketSights app with a link provided at checkout.
ABOUT ON SITE OPERA
Founded in 2012, On Site Opera is the leading presenter of site-specific operas in non- traditional venues throughout New York City. Rooted in collaboration and storytelling, On Site Opera celebrates the connection between artist and audience through highly-curated experiences led by seasoned opera artists and bold and innovative creative teams. To date, OSO has produced 18 operas in as many unique locations to critical acclaim, including Shostakovich’s The Tale of The Silly Baby Mouse using large-scale puppets in performances for families at the Bronx Zoo; Gershwin’s Blue Monday in the historic Cotton Club of Harlem; and Rameau’s Pygmalion in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, which explored new technology in opera through the use of Google Glass supertitles. Each production invites New Yorkers to explore their city in new and unique ways, while cultivating a new generation of opera audiences.