Director’s Cut: Booker Wright Oratorio

Art by Tim Kerr
Art by Tim Kerr

For the past five SFA symposia, we have commissioned a public arts performance that amplifies our annual programming theme. Among other works, we’ve staged a ballet, showcased a postmodern puppet show about barbecue pitmasters, and given voice to student singers in Leaves of Greens: The Collard Opera.

Our arts commission for 2014 will be our most ambitious. In conjunction with Premiere Commission — directed by Bruce Levingston, whom the New York Times called one of “today’s most adventurous musicians” — we have conceived an oratorio that illustrates the “double consciousness” of African American life by telling the tragic and true story of the waiter Booker Wright, who served patrons during the Civil Rights Movement era at the restaurant Lusco’s in the Mississippi Delta, and who paid a profound price for speaking truth to power.

Our composer is Nolan Gasser, an architect of the Music Genome Project and creator of such works as the The Secret Garden. The librettist is poet Kevin Young, author of, among other books, Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels. Justin Hopkins, who recently performed Kurt Weill’s The Road Of Promise at Carnegie Hall, will sing the part of Wright.

The oratorio will premier on Sunday morn of the Symposium. Don’t miss it.