"Three Sisters," in the movement: Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Gray Adams and Annie Devine
A protest for voters rights outside the Ruleville Mississippi County Courthouse, 1963
A NEW OPERA BY MARY D. WATKINS DARK RIVER world premiere performances
November 12-22, 2009
Oakland Metro Operahouse - 630 3rd Street Oakland, 510.763.1146
CONDUCTED BY DEIRDRE McCLURE
DIRECTED BY DARRYL V. JONES
Mary Watkins' new opera, Dark River, tells the history of the SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) and the biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, a central figure of the early to mid sixties Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Hamer was a prominent organizer in Mississippi and the South, and an important symbol of the grass roots civil rights struggle/movement which became an important turning point for African Americans in US history. She is perhaps best known for the quote: "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired." DARK RIVER portrays both the ugliness of the period and the resiliency of the human spirit. Ms. Hamer is a sharecropper, illiterate, with little formal education; in many ways the product of a system engineered to exploit her. Her story is important for various reasons on both a local and national level. The opera will present a revealing portrait, not only of the titular character, but the regional South, SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) and other activist movements, and the shaping effect that the summer of 1964 had on the history of our country.
FANNIE LOU HAMER
DARRYL V. JONES and CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY EAST BAY
Years of effort will come to fruition with these world premiere performances of Mary D. Watkins’ epic opera, DARK RIVER. When the head of California State University East Bay’s Musical Theatre Department, Darryl V. Jones, agreed to lead the production team as Stage Director and Dramaturge, he brought with him a group of dedicated students and former students, and turned DARK RIVER into a collaboration between the Oakland Opera and California State University, East Bay. We are truly thrilled to working with Mr. Jones. He has brought a vast amount of talent and energy to the production, and turned DARK RIVER into a seminal event in African American musical theatre and opera. These November performances are not to be missed; Mary Watkins' gospel infused score immortalizes Ms. Hamer and the civil rights movement in a beautiful and moving saga of monumental proportions.
TICKETS, TIMES and VENUE
ALL PERFORMANCES TAKE PLACE AT THE OAKLAND METRO OPERAHOUSE, 630 3rd STREET OAKLAND CALIFORNIA 94607
A TOTAL OF SIX PERFORMANCE WILL OCCUR AT THE FOLLOWING TIMES:
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 12th at 8pm
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 14th at 8pm
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 15th at 2pm
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 19th at 8pm
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 21th at 8pm
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 22th at 2pm
ALL SHOWS ARE GENERAL ADMISSION. TICKETS ARE $28, EXCEPT THURSDAYS WHICH ARE HALF-PRICE, TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED BY HITTING THE LINK BELOW
Mary D. Watkins.
Mary D. Watkins burst into the women's music scene with her 1978 Olivia Records release of Prayer for Peace. Since then this composer, arranger, performer, and teacher has worked in many genres to the delight of widely varied audiences. From blues to classical, from being a respected teacher of composition to writing movie sound tracks, to her release of gospel interpretations, Ms. Watkins has done it all. Much of her music reflects a love for many styles of music whether jazz, gospel, country, rock, clasical or pop. She has composed for solo piano, wind ensembles, string quartet, chamber and full symphony orchestra. She has also composed for theater, dance and film; songs for solo vocalist, vocal ensemble and large chorus.Her latest big project was composing the music for Queen Clara, an opera/oratorio about the Civil War experiences of Clara Barton, who later founded the American Red Cross,. Queen Clara was first performed at the Oakland Opera Theater in 2002.
An accomplished pianist, Watkins plays solo, and often plays in trio, quartet and larger ensembles. In solo performances, she is a great improvisationalist and has spontaneously improvised entire concerts before transfixed audiences, captivated by sparkling yet gentle flowing melodies with rich, harmonic textures as well as elegant, pulsating, rhythmic jazz. Her entire work, in performance and in compositions, is infused with a signature knack for blending classical and jazz styles
She has led ensembles and toured in solo piano performance performing in venues nationwide, including the Monterey and Russian River Jazz festivals, sharing the bill with many artists such as Santana, Carmen McRae, and Herbie Hancock. Her work has won critical acclaim in Keyboard Magazine, Billboard, Boston Globe, Washington Post. She has been awarded grantng foundations such as Meet The Composer, National Endowment for the Arts, Gerbode Foundation, Zellerbach Family Fund and Calfornia Council for the Arts.
Presently, while continuing her work as a composer, Mary Watkins conducts improvisation workshops, teaches piano and music theory privately in Oakland, CA.
Questions and inquiries can be sent to Tom@oaklandopera.org , or call 510-763-1146