Angela Brown redefines opera
Andrea Blackstone | 2/2/2015, 6 a.m.
Soprano Angela M. Brown who has graced prestigious opera and symphonic stages around the world, performed before approximately 300 supporters of the arts at the Bowie Center for Performing Arts in Maryland on Sunday, January 25, 2015. Brown presented her signature creation titled, “Opera From a Sistah’s Point of View.”
Attendees like artist and literary activist, J. Joy Matthews Alford (Sistah Joy) brought her granddaughter, Jordan Gregory and Jordan’s cousin to the affair that was presented by Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA). The event was free for youth ages 18 and under.
“Primarily, I am here today as a board member of CAAPA,” said Alford. “The excitement for me is that I am introducing my nine-year-old granddaughter to the opera today. I know she is going to be thrilled.”
At the end of the program, Brown’s palatable mix of opera, humorous storytelling and a dash of history garnered a standing ovation.
Admirers like Mary Ann White, president of the Board of Directors of the Prince George’s Philharmonic, greeted Brown during a casual reception. Adults and youth appeared equally eager to meet the world-renowned opera singer who dispelled operatic stereotypes.
“I believe that opera is entertainment and that you should never let anybody put you in a box and tell you that you won’t enjoy something. If you have never had a mushroom, don’t tell me you don’t like mushrooms. Try it and then you can make an educated ‘I don’t like it.’ That’s the way I feel about opera,” Brown said. “It’s entertainment. It’s something that can open your mind up to other things. One of my missions in life is to bring it to everyone. I just love seeing a diverse audience, and lots of babies, because have to build up our audiences for classical music.”
Brown’s program offered both regional and musical diversity. Kristen Wright, a general assignment reporter for News4 served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Dr. Lester Green, CAAPA’s artistic director, accompanied Brown by piano. Violinist, Alexander Strahan and pianist, Edmond Charles performed. Dr. Steven Allen directed Duke Ellington School of Arts Chamber Singers. Nevilla E. Ottley led Ottley Music School’s students. Under the direction of Dr. Eric Conway, Morgan State University Choir exhibited their choral skills. Conway is also a member of CAAPA’s Board of Directors. After individual selections were complete, Brown performed a moving extravaganza with a combined group of singers.
Samira Plummer, an 11th-grade student and aspiring opera singer who attends Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. beamed while recalling her performance opportunity with Brown.
“She [Angela Brown] was very energetic. She was really entertaining. I sang behind other opera singers, being with Duke Ellington, but with her I was more interested because she was so alive and had so much vocal control. I want to do that. Can I do that? Her voice is just amazing,” Samira said.
CAAPA is moving into the 11th season of “Bringing Color to the Classics” through community outreach, arts education, audience development, performance opportunities and arts partnerships. Terri Allen, CAAPA’s executive director, founded the organization along with her children, Pamela Simonson and Victor Simonson.
Pamela Simonson, who serves as chairman of the board, provided highlights of the Maryland-based nonprofit’s mission.
“CAAPA is really about “Bringing Color to the Classics,” which is a way to bring African American classical musicians into the community to spotlight them, highlight their talents and also give people an opportunity to hear classical music from a different perspective,” Simonson said. “One of our main goals in CAAPA is to have our students— especially the ones that are really interested in going into the field— be inspired by someone like Angela who was like them when she was their age.”
Brown was scheduled to teach a master class to vocal performance and opera students at Morgan State University the next day, under the under the auspices of CAAPA.
“Classical music gives you a good foundation that you can then build off of,” Brown said before the Baltimore visit: “Learn it right first and then you can go specialize after that.”