Vocalist - Mezzo-Soprano
Master Chorale of Washington
Since the unveiling of "Let My People Go!" in 2003, Master Chorale of Washington Music Director Donald McCullough has been rewriting his dramatic choral work, which commemorates the Underground Railroad and the spirituals sung by slaves in the antebellum South. On Sunday afternoon, the chorale and the Baltimore-based Morgan State University Choir presented a powerful and heart-wrenching premiere of the revised work at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

The 85-minute piece placed spirituals in historical context by interweaving narration and dramatic readings of escaped slaves' actual accounts throughout the music. One of the most compelling stories occurred during the "auction block" portion of the performance: Actor-narrator Lynnie Godfrey portrayed a distraught mother whose son and daughter had been sold to separate owners, as Richard Bellazin delivered the haunting inflections of the auctioneer.

During the exchange, the 180 choristers suddenly rose to their feet and intoned, "No more!" Whether humming tenderly as a backdrop to the narration or belting out the jazzed-up version of "Follow the Drinking Gourd," the singers responded intensely to McCullough and MSU Choir Director Eric Conway, who shared the podium.

Accompanied by piano, string bass and percussion, the chorale featured a quartet of excellent soloists. Morris Robinson's unwavering golden bass easily filled the sold-out hall, and mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson's poignant rendition of "Guide My Feet" was simply breathtaking. Angela Powell's clear soprano wailed away in "Run to Jesus" as tenor Jermaine Smith concluded "Steal Away" in a brave falsetto.
Grace Jean, Washington Post
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