2013 VocalEssence "WITNESS: Marian Anderson" concert celebrates Black History Month with Music, Theater

Marlissa Hudson & Greta Oglesby: Marlissa Hudson & Greta Oglesby

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Contact: Becky Bailey or Katrina Vander Kooi
612-309-7149 or 612-547-1472
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN (Nov. 21, 2012) — VocalEssence is proudly continuing its rich 23-year tradition of celebrating diversity and honoring African American artists with its popular WITNESS program.  This year VocalEssence celebrates the inspiring story of musical legend Marian Anderson, who was the first black artist to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Actress Greta Oglesby and acclaimed singer Marlissa Hudson will portray Marian Anderson in Marian Anderson: A Musical Memoir, a play written and directed by Jon Cranney. The first half of the concert will feature the VocalEssence Chorus conducted by Philip Brunelle performing music inspired by the poetry of great African American writers.


The WITNESS concert will be performed on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 4 pm at the Ordway. Tickets for WITNESS are $10-$40 (Service charges apply. Student tickets are half-price and group discounts are available.) For tickets and information, call 651-224-4222 or visit www.vocalessence.org/witness2013.


This year’s WITNESS Concert is a thrilling theatrical and musical production.  The first half of the performance will feature VocalEssence Artistic Director Philip Brunelle conducting the VocalEssence Chorus in music inspired by the poetry of great African American writers including Langston Hughes, Mari Evans, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rita Dove.


Set on the eve of Marian Anderson’s performance at Dr. King’s March on Washington, Marian Anderson: A Musical Memoir will feature the powerful soprano Marlissa Hudson as the singing Marian Anderson, actress Greta Oglesby as the speaking Marian Anderson, and Andrea Ivy as the young girl learning about Marian’s legacy. Anderson, who was an African American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century, came into the spotlight when she was refused permission in 1939 to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. With the aid of Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial instead. A crowd of over 75,000 jammed the Washington Mall and millions more listened to the radio broadcast.


Anderson also had a local Minnesota connection, performing in the Twin Cities several times with the Minneapolis Symphony and her friend Dmitri Metropolous from the 1920s to the 1950s, and was refused permission to stay at the Dyckman Hotel in downtown Minneapolis because she was black.


Marlissa Hudson has been described as a “superb lyric coloratura” (St. Louis Post Dispatch) and is at home on both the operatic and concert stage.  She has performed with such esteemed organizations as the Boston Symphony Pops Orchestra and the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Acclaimed actress Greta Oglesby is well-known to Twin Cities’ audiences for her performances at the Guthrie and Penumbra Theaters. 


About VocalEssence

Called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, VocalEssence was founded in 1969 by Artistic Director Philip Brunelle. Recognized internationally for its innovative exploration of music for voices and instruments, the organization presents an engaging collection of concerts featuring the 130-voice VocalEssence Chorus, the 32-voice Ensemble Singers (well known for their appearances on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor), guest soloists and instrumentalists. In addition to championing lesser-known works of the past, VocalEssence has an unwavering commitment to today’s composers resulting in more than 145 commissions and world premieres to date. VocalEssence has released thirteen commercial recordings, including four WITNESS CDs of music by African American composers and artists available on the Clarion label. 2011 saw the release of a new CD, From the Land of Sky Blue Waters, featuring music from the North Star Tour, a six-stop tour of Minnesota’s Hwy 23.