Symphony celebrates Black contributions

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Angela Brown is on a mission to bring operatic and classical vocal performances to a diverse audience.

“As an African-American singer in opera, I noticed the audiences were very monochromatic and people didn’t want to go see the opera because they didn’t understand the music or they didn’t know what to wear or how to act,” said Brown, who hails from and still lives in Indianapolis. “Opera is not that deep. It’s about doing a little research on the opera that you are going to see.

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ANGELA BROWN

“It’s up to artists like me to expose opera to other audiences,” Brown continued. “If they haven’t been exposed to opera, people should open their minds and add more color to their pallets. Every genre of music has its own channel. Opera is relevant because African-Americans–and people of other races will see themselves on stage. They just have to go.”

Her subsequent performance headlining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s fifth annual “Tribute Concert: A Symphonic Celebration of African American Culture,” will give the charismatic singer the chance to move one step further in her mission.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Tribute concert continues the tradition of showcasing a fusion of musical styles that reflect the diversity of music. Brown will be performing selections from “A Woman’s Life,” a compelling composition based on the poems of Maya Angelou. In addition, Brown will perform inspirational and gospel songs. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will premiere composer Michael Abels’ aria, “Global Warming.” The concert will close with Brown and the PSO singing with The Majestic Praise Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Mass Choir and the audience in “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” for the grand finale.

“You get to enjoy the opera and the symphony all in one,” Brown said. “The music will be familiar to people, especially those in Afri­can-American churches. This is a wonderful thing that will run the spectrum.”

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. and immediately following the concert, a group of Pittsburgh jazz musicians will turn the Heinz Hall Grand Lobby into a Jazz club. The whole event is being hosted by acclaimed actor, Bill Nunn.

“The event is celebrating African-American contributions in opera music and spirituals. I have an easy job of hosting the evening and keeping the audience up on what’s happening next in a light-hearted way. The symphony is needed in art because you don’t have as many orchestras in schools now. Art is food for the soul and with classical music we put our own spin on it and it becomes unique,” said Nunn who attended Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performances once a year as a child with his siblings.

Nunn made his feature film debut in Spike Lee’s 1988 movie, “School Daze.” He then went on and created one of “Do The Right Thing’s” most memorable characters Radio Raheem. In addition to appearing in two more Spike Lee films, Nunn has starred in more than 60 feature films including all three “Spider Man” films and “Sister Act.” He started the Bill Nunn Theatre Outreach Project to prepare and coach students from local high schools for The August Wilson Monologue Competition.

While Nunn’s foray into opera began as a young boy, Brown got exposed to the art form by accident.

She made her opera debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004. Five years later, Brown received the Governors’ Arts Award from the Governor of Indiana. She was inducted into the Indianapolis Public Schools Hall of Fame. Brown has performed with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, The Trumpet Awards and the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference.

(The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will take place on Friday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Avenue Downtown.Tickets are priced at $10, $15 and $25. They can be purchased by calling 412-392-4900 or on line at http://www.pittsburghsymphony.org.)

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