In a blend of reflection and action, Julia Bullock and Co. created a masterpiece of words and voiced for “A Dream Deferred: Langston Hughes In Song” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
This performance was a beautiful artistic expression of how art impacts the world. It is a reflection of not only what has tragically happened through racism, slavery, and other horrors, but how we desire to see the world improve.
A Dream Deferred: Langston Hughes In Song
As the first singer offered an artist residency at The Met, Bullock was inspired by the “Harlem On My Mind” exhibit to create her MetLiveArts program on December 2.
Julia said about the exhibit: “The Harlem Renaissance was something extraordinary. With Black Americans coming to New York in order to escape the torments of Jim Crow, an influx of creative spirits congregated. The vast amount of cultural influence that emanated from 125th Street and the surrounding blocks had yet to be experienced in America. Today we still feel how the cultural pulse of the Harlem Renaissance inspired and developed all artistic expressions.”
Julia decided to focus on Hughes because from the start of his career until now, composers in all disciplines of music have been widely drawn to set his words. Though known as the “poet laureate of Harlem,” Hughes also wanted to be a songwriter. His lyrical voice seemed to guide his writing, whether poetry, prose or a libretto for an opera. Julia thinks that if a person was sensitive enough, they could find a way to tap into Hughes’ writing and illuminate it through music.
“Although much of Hughes’ work was culturally focused, many of the readings and musical settings on this program have to do with the celebrations, perceptions, losses, struggles, and wonder of the human experience, and in particular, the unique New York experience,” Julia said. “In this moment, as I reside at The Met, Harlem and Hughes are definitely on my mind.”
The performances by all the artists that day painted the dark world of America's past, but provided hope for a bright future. This was particularly tied in with Langston Hughes' poetry. Hughes's poems such as "Harlem," "Genius Child," and "Song for a Dark Girl" were set to music in this recital curated and performed by Bullock, who was joined by soprano Nicole Cabell, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill, composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery, the Young People's Chorus of New York City, and pianist/composers Ricky Ian Gordon and John Musto, with music by composer Chad Cannon.
The singing was captivating. Nicole Cabell sang with such grace and Davóne Tines has such a lush, deep voice. The Young People's Chorus of New York City, an all-girls choir, was an excellent addition to the day, as the group sang superb and is an excellent display of top music education in the city. The addition of Anthony McGill brought the most applause, which is no surprise as he's been a fixture on the classical scene for quite some time and never disappoints.
Finally, Julia Bullock sings with such pathos you can very easily see she's not singing to entertain, but singing to move people to action.
Julia Bullock’s next curation is “Nativity Reconsidered” on December 21 and 22, with an all-new chamber music version of contemporary master John Adams's Christmas oratorio, El Niño, arranged by Preben Antonsen for the forces of the American Modern Opera Company and adapted for the intimate setting of The Met Cloisters.