On 22 November 1963, the city of Dallas entered the national conscience with an enduring legacy rivaled by few other American cities. When an assassin’s bullets ended the life of President John F. Kennedy in the streets of Dallas, this large small town in the heart of Texas sprang to the forefront of the nation’s attention and has now remained there for more than half a century. An internationally-recognized Mecca in the worlds of oil and professional sports, Dallas has also been a port of call in cultural channels, hosting events as significant as some of the most successful of Maria Callas’s appearances in the United States and the American débuts of Montserrat Caballé and Plácido Domingo, Dames Joan Sutherland and Gwyneth Jones, and Magda Olivero and Jon Vickers. The 2010 opening of The Dallas Opera’s magnificent Winspear Opera House solidified a relationship as important as the greatest cultural milestones in the city’s rich history. With the world première of his groundbreaking—perhaps sea-parting would be a more apt description—opera Moby-Dick in Winspear’s inaugural season, American composer Jake Heggie became an indelible participant in the musical life of Dallas, to which he further contributed with the opera Great Scott, commissioned by The Dallas Opera and first performed in 2015. Captain Ahab’s legendary obsession and Arden Scott’s Wolfe-esque homecoming are now parts of Dallas’s narrative as integral as the tragedy in Dealey Plaza on 22 November 1963. Further strengthening that bond with Imagine a World – Music for Humanity, Jake Heggie joins other artists and Dallas Street Choir and Credo Community Choir in bringing poignant elements of the Dallas experience to the East Coast.
In 2008, a few hours southeast of Dallas in Houston, the first version of Heggie’s operatic paean to family dynamics and dysfunction, Three Decembers, premièred with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, a beloved presence on Texas stages since her unforgettable Elena in Houston Grand Opera’s 1981 production of Rossini’s La donna del lago, in the central rôle of Madeline. Eight years earlier, von Stade, one of America’s most gifted vocalists and singing actresses, sang the pivotal rôle of a condemned murderer’s anguished mother in the world première of Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at San Francisco Opera. With Imagine a World – Music for Humanity, the relationships among Heggie, von Stade, and the city of Dallas assume new vitality as they expand to encompass appearances alongside acclaimed soprano Harolyn Blackwell and noted Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz in performances charged with embodying the meaning of the words spoken by President Obama in eulogizing Dallas police officers slain in July 2016: ‘Character is not found in putting others down: it is found in raising others up.’
Guided by conductor and music educator Dr. Jonathan Palant’s philosophy of sharing culture with individuals and communities of all levels of privilege, Dallas Street Choir and Credo Community Choir are ensembles that celebrate diversity in both their membership and their singing. The performances in their eight-day East Coast tour bring the choirs’ message of ‘Homeless, not Voiceless’ to New York’s Carnegie Hall, where they will achieve the sad but triumphant distinction of being the first ensemble comprised entirely of displaced individuals to grace that institution’s legendary Perelman stage, and Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital.
The presentation of Imagine a World – Music for Humanity in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, 14 June 2017, will feature the world première of Jake Heggie’s arrangement of George Hubbard Miller’s 1976 ‘Spinning Song,’ accompanied on the piano by the composer. Dedicated to Dallas Street Choir, the piece rejuvenates a melody familiarized in its original form by soprano Carol Webber. In addition to performances by Blackwell and von Stade, the event will feature selections from the hit musical Wicked performed by its creator, Schwartz. All tickets are priced at only $25, and proceeds from the concert will benefit organizations that work to alleviate and eliminate homelessness. For more information and to purchase tickets for the Carnegie Hall concert, please visit Carnegie Hall’s website or phone CarnegieCharge at 212.247.7800.
The performance in Washington National Cathedral at 7:30 PM on Thursday, 15 June 2017, will focus on sacred choral music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Mack Wilberg, Ola Gjeilo, and Elaine Hagenberg, alongside traversals by von Stade of pieces by Georg Friedrich Händel, Francis Poulenc, and Franz Schubert. Admission to the National Cathedral event is free.
Dallas is a city of extraordinary challenges, outstanding accomplishments, and tremendous promise exemplified by the individual stories, struggles, and successes of the 1.3 million people who call the city home. Looking beyond its sparkling skyline, Dallas is far more than Lee Harvey Oswald, Mary Kay, J. R. Ewing, and the Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers. Dallas is a city in which vast wealth dwells alongside devastating poverty. Lacking the basic human right of permanent shelter, the singers of Dallas Street Choir and Credo Community Choir reveal that the poorest in possessions are often the richest in spirit. In the Twenty-First Century, not one man, woman, or child in Dallas, Damascus, Doha, or Dublin should be compelled to only ‘imagine a world’ in which no one is denied the safe harbor of a home. Please support these artists in their efforts to share the wisdom gleaned from the streets of Dallas: music for humanity should be a validation of our unity, not a plea for recognition of the worth of strong, gifted people too many of us would rather exclude and forget.