Opera Noire to perform at SCAAHC Annual Gathering

The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission (SCAAHC) and its partners will present Opera Noire of New York as part of its annual meeting on January 28, 2011. The performance will also serve as a kick-off to African American History Month.

“This will be the first time in years, if ever, that an African American opera company has performed in Columbia,” said Joy Young, the SCAAHC board member who is coordinating the performance.

The SCAAHC’s annual meeting celebrations are based on the theme African Americans and the American Civil War: Perspectives on Class and Culture. It will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the SC Archives and History Center with discussions and presentations related to the day’s theme. Also, SCAAHC will present its annual Preserving Our Places in History awards to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to historic preservation in South Carolina over the past year.

The day’s activities will lead into a gala event with the presentation of the commission’s Herbert A. DeCosta Trailblazer Award and evening Opera Noire of New York concert performance at the Township Auditorium. The company will perform opera selections by some of the world’s most popular and famous composers: Puccini, Bizet, Mozart, Verdi and more. Opera Noire of New York will also perform works that celebrate the African American experience, including Spirituals, Work Songs, and Broadway Musicals that were written by African Americans or have some other relationship to African Americans and the African American experience. The performance will start with a reception for invited guests at 6:30 p.m.

“This annual meeting will be a very special one in that it will serve as the first of a series of events the commission will present over the next four years of the commemoration of the Civil War,” said SCAAHC chairman Leon Love of Lexington. “Also, for the first time, we will present a major arts performance.”

Among Opera Noire’s members is Co-founder and General Manager, tenor Robert Mack, who spent summers during his formative years in Bishopville and Hartsville and still has relatives in both towns.

In presenting Opera Noire, the SCAAHC is able to “encourage and demonstrate respect for all heritage while also highlighting African American accomplishment and excellence in a musical genre that you don’t find many African Americans performing,” Young said, adding that African Americans studied and performed opera even during the Civil War.

“Because opera and most vocal music pull heavily from literature, this will be an excellent opportunity for students and adults from across the state to learn and listen,” Young said.

The performers will arrive in Columbia on Monday, January 24 and travel to Hartsville, where there will be a “Meet & Greet” at the Black Creek Arts Center on Tuesday, January 25, 5 -7 p.m. The opera company will provide an artist-in-residence concert performance on Wednesday, January 26 at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Center Theater on North Fifth Street for all the students at Hartsville Middle School.

On Thursday, January 27, Opera Noire will provide a master class at Allen University.