Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit

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Music by Marcus Shelby, libretto by Roma Olvera, conducted by Lucik Aprahamian

DATES: January 18 at 6 p.m.; January 20 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

LOCATION: Buriel Clay Theater at the African American Art & Culture Complex
762 Fulton Street, San Francisco

CAST: Tiffany Austin as Harriet Tubman; Christabel Nunoo as Modesty; with Rooftop Alternative School’s 8th Grader Students

Each year, Opera Parallèle partners with school students to create and perform an original opera during an intensive eight-week residency. This year’s world premiere production features an original score by Bay Area jazz great Marcus Shelby and a libretto by Roma Olvera based on the story of a middle school girl who triumphs over the challenges of adolescence with Civil War-era legend Harriet Tubman as her role model and spirit guide. Students of Rooftop Alternative School in San Francisco will share the stage with professional singers and Jazz Ensemble in creating the production. OP’s Hands-On-Opera production annually draws capacity crowds.

For tickets and information about Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit, visit: https://operaparallele.org/harriets-spirit/

About Opera Parallele’s Harriet’s Spirit

Harriet’s Spirit is set in two different worlds — on the Combahee River during the Civil War and in a present day middle school. When asked about the opera’s themes, Marcus responded that Harriet’s Spirit is about family and friends, and the strength that they give you in challenging times. Harriet Tubman, first written in 2008 for Shelby’s original secular oratorio for 15 piece jazz orchestra and vocal ensemble, moves into the world of contemporary opera with “Harriet’s Spirit.”

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HARRIET’S SPIRIT CALENDAR DATES:

  • Family Art Night: Harriet’s Spirit with Marcus Shelby – Wednesday, November 1, 5:30pm-7:30pm, Burnett MPR. Families will create their own artwork inspired by Harriet’s Spirit and enjoy an evening of artistic call and response with composer/bassist Marcus Shelby and teaching artist Andi Wong.
  • “Harriet’s Spirit” Open Rehearsal Arts Night with Opera Parallèle – Thursday, November 16, 5pm-7pm, Mayeda Gym. Get an inside look at Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit with composer Marcus Shelby, librettist Roma Olvera, conductor Lucik Aprahamian, director Erin Neff and Rooftop’s eighth grade student performers.
  • Open Dress Rehearsal @ the Mayeda Campus – Full Run Thru w Principals – Mon, 8 January, 9:44am-10:34am; Wed, 10 January, 9:44am-10:34am; Fri, 12 January, 9:44am-10:34am. In order to accommodate more classes, we have asked Opera Parallèle for permission to open up these three additional dates to small supportive audiences (approx. 30-40).
  • Final Dress Rehearsal: Harriet’s Spirit – Wednesday, January 17, 2018; 11:00-11:45am at the Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art & Culture Center. Field Trip for Elementary (grades K+) – 200 seat capacity
  • Opera Parallele’s Harriet’s Spirit (World Premiere) – Thursday, January 18, 6pm & Saturday, January 20, 1pm & 4pm; Community performances at the Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art & Culture Center.

HARRIET’S SPIRIT PRE-ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

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Trim A Tree 2017: North Star Ornaments

Rooftop is invited to decorate one of the trees at Davies Symphony Hall during the holidays. Each student at Rooftop, grades K-8, makes an ornament that will be hung on the Rooftop tree. This year’s ornament is inspired by the North Star quilt block. This ornament-making activity is supported by Art Parent Coordinators Brooke Kerpelman, Whitney Couch and Eryn Kurin.

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Harriet’s Spirit Story Quilt Project 

Rooftop classrooms will have the opportunity to create art in support of the production design for Harriet’s Spirit. Rooftop classrooms can learn more about Harriet’s Spirit and help to create three fabric quilts, inspired by the art of quilt maker Harriet Powers (1937-1910), which are integral to the production design of Harriet’s Spirit. These story quilts share family stories recorded by Rooftop families during the November 1st Family Art Night. The Story quilt pre-engagement activities will be supported by teaching artists Andi Wong and Mary Ann Cruz at The Studios at Burnett & Mayeda.

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Harriet’s Spirit Daguerreotype Portraits

The production design of Harriet’s Spirit is also influenced by a newly discovered daguerreotype portrait of Harriet Tubman, found in a souvenir album in 2016. The Metropolitan Museum of Art noted that “…the medium’s success in America was built upon the patronage of the average worker who desired a simple likeness to keep for himself, or more likely, to send to a loved one as the era’s most enduring pledge of friendship. Among the many momentous social transformations generated by photography’s invention was the possibility of self-representation by a large variety of groups previously excluded from official portraiture.” Advances in the art of digital photography make it a snap to add your own selfie to the Rooftop family photo album of 2017-2018.

Harriet’s Spirit for Hamilton Families

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After the war Harriet Tubman returned to her home in Auburn, New York, and began what was to be her life-long work of caring for aged and indigent African Americans when she purchased 25 acres of land at auction for $1450 in 1896. In 2016, Rooftop began filling the rainbow-colored shelves of the Blake Mini Library at Hamilton Families in San Francisco as a recipient of a gift from youth philanthropist Blake Ansari who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Our 3rd annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive kicks off on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, when students of all ages are invited to help by writing notes of encouragement and donating a new or newly read children’s book to the children at Hamilton Families in the Tenderloin. Harriet’s Spirit is sharing our love of books about #MonumentalWomen with a special selection of children’s books such as Nikki Grimes & Michele Wood’s “Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony (Inspired by Historical Facts).”

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Classes can take a ten-minute hike to Kite Hill from Burnett & Tank Hill from Mayeda and explore the natural surrounds of Twin Peaks and contemplate the benefits of outdoor experiences.  In September of 2017, Atlanta artist Mashona Council became the first person to complete the 125-mile Freedom Walk across the Tubman byway alone. “To come across that line, it really was this bringing (Tubman’s) spirit with me. And we know that when she crossed there was no one here to welcome her.” The trek helped Council to gain a better perspective of Harriet Tubman’s considerable accomplishments, whether leading others to freedom on the Underground Railroad or planning the Combahee River Raid of 1863. Harriet Tubman has the unique distinction of being the only woman to have played a decisive role in planning and carrying out a military operation during the Civil War. Today, Bay Area organizations such as Girl Trek and Outdoor Afro are heading outside to reflect on Harriet Tubman’s relationship with the land and learning more about the benefits of active engagement with the natural world.

MSJO Harriet Tubman 2008

Harriet Tubman, Marcus Shelby’s musical oratorio, was the central work of Rooftop’s “Art Is Jazz” study in 2007-2008. The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, featuring vocalist Faye Carole, performed for students at the Swedish American Hall on February 1, 2008.Marcus Shelby & Harriet Tubman at Rooftop

Rooftop School’s “Art Is… Jazz” (2007-2008) website  http://artsed4all.org/ArtIsJazz/Home.html

Marcus Shelby’s website https://www.marcusshelby.com

The Google Cultural Institute: SFJAZZ: Sounds of Freedom A celebration of the spirit of resistance in African American music.

Marcus speaks about his jazz oratorio “Harriet Tubman” for SFJAZZ https://youtu.be/lWZ3O6Ffub4

At The Center ~ Marcus Shelby’s ‘Harriet Tubman & The Blues’ https://youtu.be/lWZ3O6Ffub4

KQED Arts: Bassist Marcus Shelby Finds Freedom’s Message in the Music https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2014/04/24/bassist-marcus-shelby-finding-freedoms-message-in-the-music/

SFGate: What I Do: Marcus Shelby, Jazz Musician/Educator (2010) http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Marcus-Shelby-mixes-music-politics-history-3261035.php

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Did you know that Rooftop School is the source of inspiration for TWO musical compositions written by Marcus Shelby?

 

In 2008, Marcus wrote Peaceable Kingdom – a tone poem for 15-piece jazz orchestra and speaker, based on the 1847 painting by Edward Hicks. This work, which premiered at the De Young Museum on January 18, 2008. was an artistic call and response inspired by his time working with the students at Rooftop School. In turn, two Burnett murals were created during Rooftop’s 2007-2008 study of Marcus’ musical composition, Harriet Tubman.

The Peaceable Kingdom garden wall mural, created by Ms. Margot’s 4th grade class, was inspired by Harriet’s role as a conductor for The Underground Railroad. In Our Peaceable Kingdom, the entrance mural, created by Ms. Woo’s 4th class, features student poems about peaceThe now familiar Rooftop logo was designed by 4th graders Bobby McCollough, who designed the lettering, and Aida Irving, who drew the Raven and The Dove.

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Family Art Night: Harriet’s Spirit with Marcus Shelby

The community at Rooftop Alternative PreK-8 School will enjoy an evening of artistic call and response with composer Marcus Shelby and teaching artist Andi Wong on Wednesday, November 1, 2017.

At this very special Family Art Night, Marcus will discuss his newest musical composition: a brand new opera written for Rooftop School. Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit tells the story of a middle school girl who triumphs over the challenges of adolescence with Civil War-era legend Harriet Tubman as her role model and spirit guide. Marcus will also introduce families to the opera’s musical themes. Families will work together create their own family story quilt artwork, art which will be incorporated into the opera’s production design.

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FAMILY ART NIGHTS & MAYEDA MEDIA NIGHTS were established to provide Rooftop students and their families with additional opportunities to further their learning, share educational resources, and build community through the arts.

Make that Change

Marcus & The North Star

Composer/educator Marcus Shelby received a Blue Marble in 2010 that he took with him to Japan when conducting the Count Basie Orchestra at the Blue Note in Tokyo. Marcus has since been exploring environmental issues in his own work as a composer of music and in his role as a teaching artist at Rooftop School. In his residency this year, Marcus introduced our K-8 students to the music of the cool jazz period, and shared the history of the green movement. His “Green & Blues” residency used music to illustrate environmental concepts, such as the 3+Rs, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Transport, and Waste Management. Music is a fantastic means to engage, involve, unify and spur people to action.

With The North Star Project in 2012, students explored the theme of the green economy and sustainability, and they talked about what they could do themselves to encourage others to “go green” and “live blue. They created their own artistic responses with poetry, music, dance and drama, and worked with art teacher Cyndy Sugawara to create eco-awareness video PSA’s for two community performances. The student-led performances also featured students as the set designers, stage managers, DJ’s and emcees.

 

Dezyre & Max are two best friends at Rooftop who were inspired to act after attending the North Star assembly. After seeing a PSA created by a Rooftop 8th grader, Daniel, about the impact of plastic pollution on the ocean, they were especially saddened to see a photo of a turtle eating a plastic bag. Dezyre and Max were determined to do something to help and they worked together to start a litter club. After Dezyre made a sign inviting others to join their efforts, and their teacher, Mr. John Mayhew shared his student’s plans.

Dezyre and Max really wanted to share their story, so we documented their daily routine on the playground using the Flip Camera received from EarthEcho. Their video is scored with music by Marcus Shelby, who graciously offered his support to our student effort to make a change.

Kids working together with their friends to create change on behalf of The Blue Marble.

The Fundred Project

Artist Mel Chin’s The Fundred Dollar Bill Project invites children to create their own Fundred dollar bill to symbolically raise $300,000,000, the estimated cost to treat New Orleans soil to create a lead-safe New Orleans. In New Orleans alone 86,000 properties are estimated to have unsafe levels of lead in the soil. At least 30% of the inner city childhood population is affected from lead-poisoning. Operation Paydirt provides the science to transform lead so that it is no longer harmful and a citywide implementation strategy with the potential of creating a model for all cities facing a similar threat.  http://fundred.org/

You are invited to contribute your own original Fundred to the project.  Start by downloading the Fundred template, and get creative!  http://fundred.org/get-involved/

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Preparing for the Second Line

The Second Line parade is a New Orleans tradition that arose out of the two parts of a jazz funeral. The second line is a celebration of the life of the deceased, typically held by Social (Aide) & Pleasure Club of the neighborhood. Once a funeral service was over, a procession would travel from the church to the cemetery.  Led by a “Grand Marshal,” a brass band would play slow sad music representing the struggles, the hardships, the ups and downs of life. On the way back after the burial, the music would become more joyful. A Main Line is the “main section or the members of the actual club, that has the permit to parade. The “second line” refers to the group of people following the “main line.”

In the “Crescent City,” there are dozens of different second line parades put on throughout the year, held in neighborhoods all across the city. Each second parade has its own style and character, but there are the basics: a brass band, jubilant dancing in the street and people all decked out in colorful attire: sashes, hats and bonnets, parasols and banners.

“Oh Lord, I want to be in that number when the Saints go marching in…”

 

The Mask, The Umbrella  & The Song

Ms. Sugawara’s 7th graders made masks featuring a symbol designed by each student to represent their family’s cultural heritage.  The teachers decorated second line umbrellas for their classrooms. Louis Armstrong recorded “When the Saints Go Marching In” in 1938, and the song has remained a tried and true staple of American Music since then.  There are close to 1,000 different recordings of the song by artists as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, James Brown, and even the Beatles, whose version was on the “B” side of the their first commercial release in 1961.  But it’s Satchmo’s version that people turn to capture that familiar New Orleans Spirit.

 

The Blue Marble Project

Rooftop Alternative K-8 School is traveling all over our Wonderful World with a little help from our friends, families and Dr. Wallace J. Nichols’ Blue Marble Projecthttp://www.bluemarbles.org

Help us to make the world a little smaller, as we teach our students how to help our Ocean Planet.

Student in the computer lab are learning about geography, mapping, ocean conservation and more, through The Blue Marble Project.  Our friends are helping by sharing their adventures through photographs and correspondence.

When you get your Blue Marble, you’ll know what to do!  Think about what the ocean means to you, and what you can do to live like you love the ocean.  Share your thoughts and adventures with your friends at Rooftop.  When you are ready, pass your Blue Marble on to someone new, with the instructions that they should do the same.