“It really focuses on American music looking at violence in American politics as well as American refusal to surrender, really using song as a form of protest,” Kim Maier, Executive Director of The Old Stone House, explained to Bklyner.
Created by Latrelle Bright and Jerre Dye, This Is The Ground features a diverse selection of songs spanning classical and popular music from the 1790s up to the present that illustrate “American refusal to surrender.”
“This site-specific piece is an exploration of intimacy, activism, and self reflection through the eclectic lens of American music—1776 through the present day. It is our hope that you leave feeling refreshed, renewed and connected to your community,” Bright and Dye, co-writers and co-directors of This is the Ground, said in a release announcing the production.
The free, family-friendly performances will lead groups of 50-70 participants in and around The Old Stone House as eight singers and five musicians perform works by William Bolcom, Margaret Bonds, Adolphus Hailstork, Odetta, Kamala Sankaram, Patti Smith, and more. Song historian Paul Sperry helped curate the musical selection which also includes a song by abolitionist Julia Griffiths honoring her friend Frederick Douglass.
The performance of Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass will mark the second time in 150 years that the piece has been performed. Only two copies of the song’s sheet music exist, according to Opera on Tap, and the group worked with the University of Rochester’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation to review the score and receive permission to perform it.
“Opera On Tap has amazing, talented, young singers,” Maier said. “A big part of their focus is audience development for the field of opera and improving diversity in the field and making it accessible, which also jives with our mission to make the arts accessible to a really broad community and make it part of creating a lively public space.”
Maier notes that The Old Stone House has collaborated with Opera On Tap over the years “in various capacities” and says that this performance will be unique because “people will experience it in lots of different ways.” Those who register in advance to attend “will stick with the whole [song] cycle,” while passersby and visitors to the surrounding Washington Park “will see it in bits and pieces.”
The historical musical production is a perfect fit for The Old Stone House. “We’re a public history site so being able to have this music that reflects The Old Stone House’s history is wonderful,” Maier said. “It’s really looking at this art form and making it relevant for how we live today…. We’re a revolutionary war site but what does a revolution mean to us today? How are we engaging as citizens? What sort of civic engagement is going on? How can we help people understand their governments better? I think Opera On Tap is providing another insight into that. How have individuals really impacted the course of governments through time and through music?”
Opera On Tap agrees, stating in the release announcing the show that The Old Stone House “serves as an incredible venue for an immersive musical experience exploring our nation’s current political divide and how it relates to our history.”
The American music selected for This Is The Ground focuses on “moments in our history when politics has led to heightened violence in our nation” including:
- 1790s (America in the wake of The Revolutionary War and during the French Revolution)
- 1830s to 1850s (era of abolitionists and anti-abolitionists)
- 1960s and 1970s (the age of civil rights activism and unrest)
- Today (the social media age)
“Opera on Tap has had the pleasure of partnering with the Old Stone House on performances for over a decade now, and we could not be more pleased to be working with them on this project particularly,” Anne Hiatt, co-founder and general director of Opera On Tap, told Bklyner in an email.
“This is our first time producing a work at The Old Stone House that has such a strong history component and we are so excited to be able to support the important work Kim and everyone at The Old Stone House has done in our community to remind us of our local history while also providing a communal space to play and learn,” she continued. “That aspect of what The Old Stone House offers us—a place to play and learn—is at the heart of what we have put together in This Is The Ground.
Opera on Tap was founded in 2005 at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom in Park Slope to “promote opera as a viable, living and progressive art form” while supporting the artists who help keep it alive. Opera On Tap formed The Immersive Opera Project in 2016 to engage audiences in immersive live opera experiences.
Opera On Tap will present three performances per night of This Is The Ground (6pm, 7:30pm and 8:30pm) on July 5, 6, 12, and 13. The Old Stone House is located at 336 3rd Street (in Washington Park) between 4th & 5th Avenues in Park Slope. Click here to RSVP.