( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) America Sings: A Juneteenth Celebration, the Persistence of the Human Spirit
ENSPIRE Contributor: LaShonda Thompson
Juneteenth, which is observed every year on June 19th, celebrates the day in 1865 when federal forces arrived in Galveston, Texas to seize control of the state and free all enslaved people. The army arrived two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Slavery in Texas had remained relatively unaffected even though Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered two months earlier in Virginia at Appomattox Court House. It wasn’t until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3 that had officially informed Texas people of their freedom.
“In America we have de jure and de facto legal and government systems,” explains concert curator Carl Dupont. “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.”
When putting together the concert program, DuPont included prose and poetry – along with an extraordinary selection of music by African American composers – to create a more comprehensive texture of why we celebrate Juneteenth. 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.
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. “I am glad that the performers at this concert represent a wide variety of racial backgrounds,” added DuPont “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.”
AMERICA SINGS: A JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION is presented in partnership with Caffè Lena. The free concert will take place at 2pm ET, Saturday, June 19th, 2021 on YouTube. To access the concert, and for additional information please visit: Opera Saratoga