Terrifying and heartbreaking stories of the Underground Railroad, sung
January 21, 2020 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Harriet Tubman may be the best-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, but a new album highlights another key figure: William Still [an abolitionist, historian and conductor for the Underground Railroad], who helped nearly 800 enslaved African Americans escape to freedom in the years before the Civil War. He's featured prominently in the new film Harriet [...] and he's the central figure of Sanctuary Road, a new oratorio (official YT playlist) by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec based on Still's 1872 book The Underground Railroad (Archive.org). Kent Tritle deftly leads the Oratorio Society of New York Orchestra, Chorus and a dynamic cast of African American soloists. (NPR)

Review: Paul Moravec – "Sanctuary Road" (Naxos) (The Classic Review)
The beginnings of this new work, here receiving its world premiere recording, can be traced to a conversation between Jody Spellun, a singer in the Oratorio Society of New York, and its conductor, Kent Tritle. Ms. Spellun asked Tritle if the choir might perform a piece addressing the issue of racial disparity in America. Impressed by Moravec’s “The Blizzard Voices” [(YT playlist) that was based on the Schoolhouse Blizard of 1888 (Wikipedia)], which she has recently sung with the Oratorio Society, Spellun decided to commission a work on the subject from Moravec, resulting in “Sanctuary Road,” a 50-minute large scale oratorio for five soloists [Laquita Mitchell, Soprano; Raehann Bryce-Davis, Mezzo-soprano; Joshua Blue, Tenor; Malcolm J. Merriweather, Baritone; Dashon Burton, Bass-bariton], chorus and orchestra.
See also: The Naxos page for this recording, and Paul Moravec's personal website with more information on his works.
posted by filthy light thief (1 comment total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
William and Letitia Still's house still stands in Philadelphia! It's a small privately owned row home at 625 South Delhi Street (between South Street and Brainbridge, right below Whole Foods). There's no marker or sign so very few people know about it. I pass by it often and take time to look at the stone steps, thinking about the people whose feet have touched them. I sometimes have a hard time feeling that history is real -- that house makes the Underground Railroad more real for me.

Thank you for posting this. I'm excited to dig in.
posted by mcduff at 10:51 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

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