Opera Saratoga announces Juneteenth’s “America Sings”

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Opera Saratoga announced today that “America Sings” will return to Caffè Lena on June 19 for “A Juneteenth Celebration,” celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.

The free concert will take place Saturday, June 19, at 2 p.m. To access the concert, visit www.operasaratoga.org/juneteenth.

“America Sings” is Opera Saratoga’s free concert series that was created to amplify the voices of artists from racial groups historically underrepresented on the concert stage. The program will be performed by Festival Artists from Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program, who include notable emerging Black singers alongside artists who come from a wide range of other racial backgrounds, many of whom are learning more about Juneteenth through the experience of putting together this program.

The show was curated by bass-baritone Carl DuPont, a distinguished alumnus of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program who is now on faculty at Peabody Conservatory where he teaches voice and a survey course on Art Song by African American Composers. 

“In America, we have de jure and de facto legal and government systems,” Dupont said. “Juneteenth is the crystallization of that for me. Although The Emancipation Proclamation was issued two years prior to Juneteenth (de jure) the actual emancipation of those citizens in Texas (de facto) didn’t happen until two years later. This holiday is a reminder of how stubborn structural racism can be, and how indomitable the persistence of the human spirit remains.”

Musical selections include songs by H. Leslie Adams, Tim Amukele, Margaret Bonds, Uzee Brown, Moses Hogan, Betty Jackson King, Rosephanye Powell, Florence Price and Hale Smith. Spoken word selections include excerpts from The Declaration of Independence, The Emancipation Proclamation and The General Orders, which actually notified the enslaved people that they were free. The program will also include first-hand diary accounts and poetry from formerly enslaved people, as well as newspaper copy of the observation of the first Juneteenth celebrations. 

Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19, commemorates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The arrival of troops came two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House two months earlier in Virginia, but slavery had remained relatively unaffected in Texas—until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Juneteenth honors that day – the end of slavery in the United States.

“I am glad that the performers at this concert represent a wide variety of racial backgrounds,” DuPont concluded, “some of whom might be performing art songs by Black composers for the first time. Many of the members of the concert-going public will also be hearing these wonderful songs for the first time. That will be a special moment and I hope the singers feel inspired to continue to advocate for Black composers as well as other marginalized composers, themes, or causes in their careers. And, I hope the audience gains a window into the faith, hope, joy, dreams, suffering, consolation and frustration of the Black American experience and of our shared history as a nation.”

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