Arts Blog

‘An African American Requiem’ Soloists

‘An African American Requiem’ Soloists & Artists

On Saturday, May 7, 2022, All Classical Portland will present a bi-coastal broadcast of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem. The live broadcast will begin at 5:50 PM PT (8:50 PM ET) on 89.9 FM in Portland, WQXR 105.9 FM in New York, and streaming worldwide via our live player.

This broadcast is generously sponsored by First Republic Bank.


To purchase tickets or learn more about the concert on May 7, 2022, at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, visit orsymphony.org.


The program will be hosted by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight and All Classical Portland’s Suzanne Nance. Learn more about this ground breaking broadcast.


Commissioned by Resonance Ensemble, An African American Requiem will be performed by the Oregon Symphony, the African American Requiem Choir, singers from Resonance Ensemble, Kingdom Sound Gospel Choir, and other Portland-based choirs. William Eddins will conduct, and Resonance Ensemble’s Artistic Director Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon will prepare the chorus. The concert will also feature a quartet of renowned African American opera singers: Brandie Sutton, soprano; Karmesha Peake, mezzo-soprano; Bernard Holcomb, tenor; and Kenneth Overton, baritone.

The piece incorporates traditional requiem mass parts, African American spirituals, as well as texts from civil rights activists Ida B. Wells and Jamilia Land. It also includes the last words spoken by Eric Garner, a line from a poem by Antwon Rose, and words written and performed by Portland poet Dr. S. Renee Mitchell.

Read on to meet some of the talented musicians involved in this important work.


William Eddins, Conductor

WILLIAM EDDINS, Conductor

William Eddins is the Music Director Emeritus of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and a frequent guest conductor of major orchestras throughout the world.

Engagements have included the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Boston Minnesota, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Houston, as well as the Los Angeles and Buffalo Philharmonics.

Internationally, Eddins was Principal Guest Conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland).. He has also has conducted the Berlin Staatskapelle, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, and the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra.

Dr. S. Renee Mitchell

DR. S RENEE MITCHELL, Poet

Dr. S. Renee Mitchell is an acclaimed trainer/facilitator, community heARTivist, and educator, with an expertise in culturally relevant social-emotional learning and healing from racial
trauma. She is also a former newspaper columnist for The Oregonian, where she was nominated twice for a prestigious Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Mitchell is also the visionary behind I Am M.O.R.E. (Making Ourselves Resilient Everyday), an evidence-based, and nationally award-winning, Black youth-development program. As a self-proclaimed Creative Revolutionist™, Dr. Mitchell expresses herself through poetry, art, quilting, and multimedia experiences. Her unrelenting dedication to community uplift has also garnered her numerous local and national awards, including the 2021 Gladys McCoy Lifetime of Excellence Award, the 2021 Liberty & Hope Award and the 2019–20 Spirit of Portland Award, among others.

Her next book, “In My Power, I Empower: Moving Black Youth from SpiritMurder to Emotional Emancipation,” will be released in April 2022.

DR. KATHERINE FITZGIBBON

Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Lewis & Clark College, where she has won the Lorry Lokey Faculty Excellence Award honoring teaching and scholarship, and the David Savage Award honoring leadership and service. She has guest conducted choirs, presented research, and given workshops internationally.

Dr. FitzGibbon founded Resonance Ensemble in 2009. With Resonance, she has partnered with hundreds of artists and community organizations and has commissioned major choral works from composers including Damien Geter, Melissa Dunphy, Mari Esabel Valverde, Jasmine Barnes, and Renee Favand-See. In June of 2019, Chorus America honored Dr. FitzGibbon with the prestigious Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal.

Dr. FitzGibbon is President-Elect of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, and her choirs have performed at the NCCO, ACDA, and OMEA conferences. She holds conducting degrees from Princeton University, the University of Michigan, and Boston University.

BRANDIE SUTTON, soprano

In the 2021-22 season, soprano Brandie Sutton returned to both Seattle Opera (as Musetta in La Boheme) and the Metropolitan Opera, as Fairy Godmother in Cendrillon. Her Met Opera debut took place in 2020, as Clara in Porgy and Bess, the same role in which she made her Vienna debut at Theater an der Wien. This season ,she repeats her Musetta with Michigan Opera Theater and Spoleto Festival in Charleston, and sang Messiah at Carnegie Hall. This summer, she will sing the role of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos for the first time at Lakes Area Music Festival. She has sung with New York City Opera ,and at the opera houses of Geneva, Hamburg, Dresden, Frankfurt, Bari and Mexico (Palacio de las Bellas Artes.)

A versatile concert artist, Ms. Sutton has sung with the Mostly Mozart Festival, National Symphony Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center, South Florida Symphony, Royal Danish Symphony. Oregon Symphony, and many others. Next season she will make her debuts with Opera Philadelphia, Virginia Opera and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, as well as returning to the Metropolitan Opera.

Karmesha Peake, mezzo-soprano

KARMESHA PEAKE, mezzo-soprano

An enterprising, skilled, and extraordinarily gifted Dramatic Mezzo Soprano, Karmesha Peake discovered her affinity for music at the age of five singing in her Louisville, Kentucky church youth choir. In the early years of her musical journey, Karmesha secured a coveted invitation to take part in Kentucky’s high-standing Governor’s School for the Arts among only 200 students in the entire state. A performance by Angela M. Brown, an African American dramatic soprano, inspired Karmesha to devote her life to music.

Karmesha appeared as cover for the role of Chloe in H. Lawrence Freeman’s opera Voodoo with Harlem Opera Theater and Morningside Opera at Miller Theater, NYC. She served as featured soloist in Harlem Opera Theater’s Salute to Black History Month presenting works by Harry T. Burleigh. Outside of New York, she has traveled for appearances in “Why Just in February?” a concert series at Bellarmine University, the Cincinnati Opera productions of Porgy and Bess and La Traviata, and as an ensemble member of Houston Grand Opera’s production of Show Boat.

BERNARD HOLCOMB, tenor

Tenor Bernard Holcomb has “already made a name for himself in the world of opera” with his “delicate and flexible” voice (Opera Wire) and the “appealing sweetness and clarity [of] his tone” (New York Times). Katy Walsh of Chicago Theater Beat said it best: “Although everyone [at Lyric Opera of Chicago] can sing, Holcomb reminds us why we come to the Lyric.”  Most recently, Holcomb returned to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as a soloist in Lush Life: Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, after making his début there in 2019 with Dancing in the Street: The Music of Motown. He also appeared in On Site Opera’s Diary of the One Who Vanished and What Lies Beneath, Elmwood Concert Singers virtual Messiah and appeared in workshops for Beth Morrison Projects and Washington National Opera.

This season, he will join Opera Carolina for I Dream, make his debut with Portland Opera to rerise the role of Kevin Richardson in Central Park Five, which he will also sing with Long Beach Opera, and return to Michigan Opera Theatre for their production of X, Life and Times of Malcolm X. In concert, he will sing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with St. John the Divine, tour with Harlem Gospel Choir throughout Europe, and sing the World Premiere of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem with the Resonance Ensemble and the Oregon Symphony. He will also once again perform Dancing in the Street: The Music of Motown for both the Buffalo Philharmonic and Greensboro Symphony.

Kenneth Overton, baritone

KENNETH OVERTON, baritone

Kenneth Overton is lauded for blending his opulent baritone with magnetic, varied portrayals that seemingly “emanate from deep within body and soul.”  Kenneth Overton’s symphonious baritone voice has sent him around the globe, making him one of the most sought-after opera singers of his generation.  Kenneth is a 2020 GRAMMY AWARD WINNER for Best Choral Performance in the title role of Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

This season, engagements for Kenneth include his Metropolitan Opera debut in the fall of 2021 as Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess, a reprisal of the role of Ralph Abernathy in I Dream with Opera Carolina, The Homecoming Solider in Zach Redler’s The Falling and The Rising with Opera Carolina, and Germont in La Traviata for Fort Worth Opera.

This past year he appeared in On Site Opera’s The Road We Came, an immersive and site-specific experience that explores the composers, musicians and places that define the rich Black history of New York City.


First Republic Bank logo

All Classical Portland’s live broadcast of An African American Requiem is generously sponsored by First Republic Bank.

First Republic Bank was founded in 1985 by Jim Herbert on the belief that a truly differentiated culture devoted to exceptional client service would result in a successful banking business. First Republic strives to continually foster an inclusive and diverse environment, where a variety of voices are heard and valued. They are committed to supporting their colleagues and the community, while doing their part in advocating for and advancing equality. Learn more at firstrepublic.com.

Tune in on May 7 for this landmark broadcast.

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