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The March to Liberation

Mar 02 - Mar 04


This multimedia evening delving into the Black American experience features staging directed by Tazewell Thompson and video by Rasean Davonté Johnson. Still’s Symphony No. 2, Song of a New Race, celebrates the Black American as, in the composer’s words, “a totally new individual.” Adolphus Hailstork’s oratorio Done Made My Vow, A Ceremony, honors the countless Black Americans who have faced “the bench of injustice, and, by doing so, changed a nation.” It all begins with the World Premiere of Courtney Bryan’s Gathering Song,with Ryan Speedo Green singing Thompson’s libretto. Leslie B. Dunner conducts.  

The March to Liberation


7:30 PM





8:00 PM




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Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall


2 Hours with Intermission

Additional Info
These concerts will be streamed on the Hauser Digital Wall.


Courtney Bryan & Tazewell Thompson

Gathering Song (World Premiere–New York Philharmonic Commission)


Symphony No. 2, Song of a New Race

Adolphus Hailstork

Done Made My Vow, A Ceremony



  • Leslie B. Dunner


    Praised for electrifying performances, Interlochen Orchestra conductor Leslie B. Dunner maintains an active performance life in addition to bringing a wealth of experience to Interlochen. In addition to 11 years of collaboration with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, his concert engagements have included the Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Seattle symphony orchestras; as well as The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic, among others. He has conducted in Canada, Estonia, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and Ukraine. His 2022–23 highlights include conducting The Kennedy Center’s Dance Festival, Reframing the Narrative, Wagner’s Siegfried and Götterdammerung in Newark, Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri in Tulsa, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in Oakland, the Calgary Philharmonic’s opening concert, and two concert programs with the New York Philharmonic as part of the inaugural season in the new David Geffen Hall.

    Dunner was principal conductor at Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Louisville Ballet, interim music director of Orquesta Filarmónica in Guadalajara, and music director of the Joffrey Ballet and Annapolis, Dearborn, and Nova Scotia symphony orchestras. He’s conducted the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Michigan Opera Theatre, London’s Royal Ballet, Birmingham’s Royal Ballet, and South African Ballet Theatre, among others nationally and abroad. On tour he has appeared at festivals across the United States, Europe, Scandinavia, South America, the former Soviet Union, and South Africa, and in special performances for Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, and the G7 Summit with President Clinton. He has had audiences with South Africa’s presidents F. W. De Klerk, Nelson Mandela, and Jacob Zuma, and has met Desmond Tutu.

    The first American prize-winner of the Toscanini International Conducting Competition, Dunner is a recipient of Leonard Bernstein’s American Conductors Award and the NAACP’s James Weldon Johnson and Distinguished Achievement Awards. He is interim director of Chicago’s South Shore Opera and resident conductor of New Jersey’s Trilogy Opera Company. At Long Beach Opera Dunner led Anthony Davis’s The Central Park Five, which received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

    Leslie Dunner composes and performs as a clarinetist. He has played clarinet for Traverse City productions of the musicals Elf, Cinderella, and Chicago.

    Learn more about Leslie B. Dunner
  • Tazewell Thompson


    Tazewell Thompson is an internationally acclaimed opera and theater director and award-winning playwright, teacher, lecturer, and actor. He received the 2020 MCANA Award as librettist, with composer Jeanine Tesori, for Best New Opera in North America for Blue, named Best in Classical Music in 2019 by both The New York Times and The Washington Post. After its premiere at Glimmerglass and performances at the Detroit, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Dutch National operas, Blue is scheduled to be presented at Washington National Opera, English National Opera, and New Orleans Opera. Thompson’s more than 150 directing credits include world and / or American premieres throughout the United States, France, Spain, Italy, Africa, Japan, Canada, and The Netherlands. He received an Emmy nomination for the Live From Lincoln Center production of the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, and directed three operas in the same season in three different theaters at the Kennedy Center: Philip Glass’s Appomattox, Weill’s Lost in the Stars, and the American premiere staging of Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica. Aaron Copland chose Thompson to rewrite the libretto and stage the world premiere of his opera The Second Hurricane for Copland’s 85th birthday celebration. Jubilee, Thompson’s 2019 a cappella work about The Fisk Jubilee Singers, played to five weeks of standing-room-only audiences at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, and was recently produced at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. His award-winning play Constant Star, about Ida B. Wells, has had nationwide productions and received nine Barrymore, five NAACP, and three Carbonell awards. His play Mary T & Lizzy K received the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. His poem Ghostlight, about the closing of Broadway theaters during the pandemic, covered the entirety of The New York Times Opinion page.

    Learn more about Tazewell Thompson
  • Rasean Davonté Johnson

    Video Artist

    Rasean Davonté Johnson is a video artist and designer of projections for theater, film, and installations. He is owner of the Chicago-based practice eightinfinitystudio, which specializes in design, video engineering consultation, and content creation for the performing arts. His 2021 commission We Are All in This Together: Shutdown, Crisis, Restart — an immersive, 360-degree video installation exploring the collective experience of the pandemic — was part of WonderWall at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Other works include two presentations at Yale University: Living Sculpture as part of LUX: Ideas through Light, at the Beinecke Rare Books Library, and A Night of Wonder. Collaborative works include The Ballad of Lula Del Ray 2.0 with Manual Cinema at the Logan Arts Center, Convergence: A mad tea pARTy at the Yale Art Gallery, and Passenger: the American landscape redefined at the University of Chicago and the Bridgeport Film Festival.

    Learn more about Rasean Davonté Johnson
  • Robert Wierzel

    Lighting Designer

    Lighting designer Robert Wierzel has worked with artists and directors from diverse disciplines and backgrounds in opera, theater, dance, museums, and contemporary music, and on stages throughout the country and abroad. His Broadway productions include Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, the musical FELA! (Tony Award nomination), and David Copperfield’s Dreams and Nightmares. His work has appeared in other New York City venues including Park Avenue Armory (Deep Blue Sea), Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York Shakespeare Festival, Lincoln Center (American Songbook Series), Roundabout Theatre Company, and Signature Theatre Company.

    Learn more about Robert Wierzel
  • Ryan Speedo Green


    Grammy Award–winning bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green has quickly established himself as an artist in international demand at the world’s leading opera houses. The 2022–23 season sees his first leading role at The Metropolitan Opera, starring as Emile Griffith in Terence Blanchard’s Champion, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and directed by James Robinson. Green also makes his Opéra national de Paris debut, singing Kurwenal in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and his Bavarian Staatsoper debut, as Varlaam in Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov. He also returns to Washington National Opera to sing Ferrando in a new production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Orest in a new production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra.

    Learn more about Ryan Speedo Green
  • Simon Estes


    Simon Estes is an internationally renowned opera star. He has sung in 84 opera houses and with 115 orchestras, collaborating with 90 of the world’s most eminent conductors. Of the 104 roles he has performed, 17 were title roles. He has sung for six United States Presidents, from President Johnson through President Obama, as well as many notable dignitaries, royalty, and religious figures, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. He is the only person to have performed for the 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries of the United Nations. He has received 13 honorary doctorates.

    Learn more about Simon Estes
  • Janinah Burnett


    Janinah Burnett is one of the foremost performing artists of her generation. A versatile singing actor, musician, writer, arranger, and educator, she is in demand and has thrilled audiences domestically and internationally in opera, recital, musical theater, jazz, television, and film. Her many signature operatic roles include Mimì in Puccini’s La bohème, Leila in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen, Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust, and Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata. As Mimì in the original cast of Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème on Broadway, Burnett won a Los Angeles Theater Alliance Award and performed on the Tony Awards broadcast. Shortly thereafter she joined the roster of principal artists at The Metropolitan Opera, remaining for eight consecutive seasons. She has been in the cast of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera on Broadway since 2016, appearing as Carlotta Giudicelli, and will remain until its final performance. 

    Learn more about Janinah Burnett
  • Rodrick Dixon


    Rodrick Dixon possesses a versatile tenor voice of extraordinary range that has earned him the respect of conductors, orchestras, and opera companies throughout North America, including Los Angeles Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Todi Music Festival, Portland Opera, Opera Columbus, Virginia Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Opera Southwest.

    Learn more about Rodrick Dixon
  • Ebony Spicer


  • New York Philharmonic Chorus
        Malcolm J. Merriweather, Director


    The New York Philharmonic Cho­rus is an ensemble of New York–based, profes­sional vocalists that was established to mark the Orchestra’s return to the transformed David Geffen Hall in the 2022–23 season. The Chorus made its debut in the hall’s two Inaugural Galas, both conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden, in which it sang selections by Bernstein and Handel as well as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the World Premiere of Angélica Negrón’s You Are the Prelude, which the NY Phil commissioned for the occasion. The Chorus returned later in the season for Adolphus Hailstork’s Done Made My Vow, A Ceremony and the New York Premiere of John Luther Adams’s Become Desert. In the 2023–24 season Malcolm J. Merriweather again directs the New York Philharmonic Chorus, preparing the ensemble for Holst’s The Planets, in November; Émigré — composed by Aaron Zigman and lyrics by Mark Campbell and Brock Walsh — in February–March; and van Zweden’s season-concluding performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection. Grammy-nominated conductor and baritone Malcolm J. Merriweather — who has prepared the New York Philharmonic Chorus for appearances with the Orchestra since the choir was founded — is music director of The Dessoff Choirs. He also serves as an associate professor at Brooklyn College and on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music. He has conducted ensembles in venues that include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Madison Square Garden in New York City, as well as Westminster Abbey and at the Vatican before Pope Francis. His repertoire ranges from J.S. Bach to the world premiere recording of Margaret Bonds’s The Ballad of the Brown King (AVIE Records). As a baritone, Merriweather studied with Rita Shane, has appeared as soloist throughout the United States, and has premiered dozens of contemporary solo works. He was a fellowship recipient at Tanglewood and has earned degrees from Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Syracuse University.

    Learn more about New York Philharmonic Chorus
        Malcolm J. Merriweather, Director

Special Thanks

Liberation, featuring The March to Liberation, is presented by Judith and Stewart Colton.

Major support for these concerts is provided by Dr. Kathryn Beal.

These performances of Courtney Bryan & Tazewell Thompson's Gathering Song are made possible with generous support from the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts.

These concerts are part of the Wu Tsai Series Inaugural Season.


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