For opera to remain vibrant, its stories must reflect a multitude of experiences, and its productions must adapt to unconventional spaces. Both characteristics were in full effect on October 10, 2020, when OFAV (Opera for All Voices), in association with PortSide New York, staged a performance of Is This America? on the deck of an oil tanker docked in Brooklyn.
This workshop of an adaptation of This Little Light of Mine, by composer Chandler Carter and librettist Diana Solomon-Glover, is a celebration of American voting and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s inspiring legacy.
In this episode, Andrea speaks with LaToya Ratlieff, Ms. Hamer’s grand-niece who is a voting and civil rights activist, and Diana, who transformed Hamer’s voice into this transcendent work of art. It’s a piece that connects history to current events, ancestor to descendent.
In 1964, police boarded a bus in an attempt to intimidate Black citizens on their way to register to vote. In the midst of an uncomfortable silence, a lone voice broke into song. Fannie Lou Hamer’s courage bolstered the resolve of her fellow passengers that day, and strengthened a movement for generations to come.
Today, LaToya shares her story of injury by police during a well-intentioned demonstration for George Floyd, but more importantly how strangers risked their own safety to come to her aid in a time of need.
“I want people to understand that they stand on her head and shoulders; that before Breonna Taylor, before Sandra Bland, there was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was Black Lives Matter, and I want people to know that.” -Diana Solomon-Glover
“For me, she’s a constant inspiration in a day and or that, anything can be
achieved. And that we as humans, specifically us in America, that we have the ability to change lives for, not only ourselves, but for those around us.” -LaToya Ratlieff
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” -Fannie Lou Hamer
*This episode contains two musical excerpts from Is This America? Additional music licensing by PodcastMusic.com.
VIEW THE FULL WORKSHOP:Is This America?
ALSO MENTIONED IN EPISODE:The Singing Neanderthals by Steven Mithen
If you are new to Key Change, go back and listen to season 2, episode 7: Mother of a Movement. It's an introduction to the commission of This Little Light of Mine with Diana and composer Chandler Carter.
Key Change is a production of The Santa Fe Opera in collaboration with Opera for All Voices.
Produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios
Hosted by Andrea Fellows Fineberg
Audio Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe
Theme music by Rene Orth with Corrie Stallings, mezzo-soprano, and Joe Becktell, cello.
Cover art by David Tousley
Special thanks to PortSide NewYork and Carolina Salguero.
This podcast is made possible due to the generous funding from the Melville Hankins Family Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
To learn more about Opera for all voices, visit us at SantaFeOpera.org