Repast: An Oratorio in Honor of Mister Booker Wright of Greenwood, Mississippi

Art by Tim Kerr
Art by Tim Kerr

For the past five symposia, SFA has commissioned a public arts performance inspired by the annual Symposium 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.

This year, we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which desegregated places of public accommodation including restaurants. We will close out the Symposium on Sunday, October 26, with a premiere of Repast: An Oratorio in Honor of Mister Booker Wright of Greenwood, Mississippi.

Poet and frequent SFA collaborator Kevin Young is the librettist. Repast tells the tragic and true story of Booker Wright, owner of Booker’s Place nightclub and waiter at famed restaurant Lusco’s, who spoke out about the pains of segregation and lived and died in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood. The oratorio illustrates the “double consciousness” of African American life during the civil rights era.

Repast collaborators include:

Composer Nolan Gasser is the architect of Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project. He is also the composer of the opera, The Secret Garden and the orchestral work Cosmic Reflection: A Narrated Symphony.

Bass-baritone Justin Hopkins recently sang Richard Strauss’s Daphne at the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels, Belgium. In 2015 he will perform Kurt Weill’s The Road Of Promise at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Artistic director and pianist Bruce Levingston is the founder of Premiere Commission and he is the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist in Residence at the University of Mississippi. The New Yorker called him a “force for new music.”

Librettist Kevin Young, a recipient of Stegner and Guggenheim Fellowships is the author of nine books of poetry and nonfiction including The Book of Hours and The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness.

Underwriting for the development of Repast and production of this performance comes courtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance members and Premiere Commission. Future performances are planned.