Sanctuary Road generously supported by Anne Gardner and in partnership with LancasterHistory.

Friday, February 3rd, 2023 at 7:30pm

Sunday, February 5th, 2022 at 3:00pm

Gardner Theatre at Lancaster Country Day School

Tickets are $30 per person

Sanctuary Road is an opera that began life as an oratorio, and is based on the writings of William Still, a conductor for the Underground Railroad, who helped almost 800 slaves escape to freedom and who meticulously and passionately documented many of their lives in his memoir, The Underground Railroad Records. Sanctuary Road honors the courage and humanity of individuals escaping to freedom, while celebrating the inspirational, collective power of the movement William Still recorded in his memoir. It was first staged as an opera in March of 2022 by North Carolina Opera. Penn Square Music is proud to present the second fully staged performance
with orchestra at the Gardner Theatre.

Eric McKeever – William Still

American baritone Eric McKeever has won consistent praise for his voice of “power and brilliance” (Chicago Tribune) and “considerable flexibility and a communicative presence enhanced by expressive, crystalline diction.” (Opera News)

Recently he was Betto (Gianni Schicchi) with Opera Columbus and Tonio (I paglicacci) with Salt Marsh Opera. He returned to Opera Columbus in the spring of 2021 as Marcello (La Bohème) and sang concerts with Baltimore Concert Opera/OperaDelware. This season appearances include a debut with UrbanArias as Papa-Daddy in Why I Live at the Post Office); revives the title role, Don Giovanni with Indianapolis Opera; and, sings Leporello (Don Giovanni) with Teatro Grattacielo.

He has been Sharpless (Madama Butterfly) with Opera Columbus, David (L’amico Fritz) with Baltimore Concert Opera, Germont (La traviata) with Pacific Opera Project and joined Knoxville Opera in concert as Enrico (Lucia di Lammermoor). Mr. McKeever made is his Anchorage Opera debut as Malatesta (Don Pasquale), joined the roster of New York City Opera covering the role of Jake Wallace (La Fanciulla del West) and returned to Florentine Opera as The Speaker (The Magic Flute). He was Charlie in Kamala Sankaram’s Looking at You at BRIC in Brooklyn and sang with Finger Lakes Opera as Frank (Die Fledermaus). He performed Adam Waters’ River of Freedom with the Chautauqua Institution and joined Salt Marsh Opera as a soloist in “Music at the Lighthouse.” Other roles include: Sander (Zémire et Azor); Marcello and Schaunard (La bohème); the Revival Singer (Elmer Gantry) at Florentine Opera; and, Michele (Il Tabarro).

LaToya Lain – Soprano

Applauded for her “wonderfully rich,” “powerful,” and “captivating” voice, American singer LaToya Lain, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, is a member of the voice faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as the Metropolitan Opera Extra Chorus.

Equally at home in the teaching studio and on the performance stage, Ms. Lain continues to perform solo recitals, oratorio, and opera worldwide. She was recently a member of the GRAMMY Award-winning cast of Porgy and Bess at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City and last season, she returned to The Met for performances in Terrance Blanchard’s jazz opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, and Verdi’s Requiem

Ms. Lain’s operatic roles include “Brünnhilde” in Die Walküre, “Countess Almaviva” in Le Nozze di Figaro, the title role in Carmen, “Suzuki” in Madame Butterfly, “Polinesso” in Ariodante, “La Principessa” in Suor Angelica, “Baba” in The Medium, and “Ježibaba” in Rusalka.

Dr. Lain’s research includes the intensive study and performance practice of Negro Spirituals. In 2014, she was inspired to develop an innovative lecture- recital drawing on the slave narratives from the Federal Writers Project, collected under the auspices of the New Deal in the 1930s and housed at the Library of Congress. The slave narratives may be the most accurate existing accounts of the everyday activities of the enslaved, preserving the personal memoirs of more than two thousand former enslaved Americans. In essence, she tells the story of one formerly enslaved woman through song, while representing the stories of hundreds or even thousands of experiences. 

Recent and upcoming engagements include Mahler’s Symphony #4 with the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra in Ohio, Amahl and the Night Visitors with the New York Opera Society, as well as several master classes and workshops.

Melody Wilson – Mezzo

With her warm, richly timbred voice, mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson has quickly made a name for herself in the US and Europe. In 2022, she appeared with San Francisco Symphony in Brahms’ Alto-Rhapsody, with Dallas Symphony under Maestro Fabio Luisi as Olga in Eugene Onegin, in a recital with Oakland Symphony, as Principessa di Bouillon in Adriana Lecouvreur with Baltimore Opera, as Mrs. Herring in Albert Herring with the Princeton Festival, as Meg Page in Falstaff with Union Avenue Opera, and in Sanctuary Road with Chautauqua Symphony. She also covered two roles in two productions at San Francisco Opera: Charmian in the world premiere of John Adams’ Anthony and Cleopatra and Olga in Eugene Onegin.

In 2023-24, she will join the roster of the Metropolitan Opera to cover the role of Cousin Blanche in Champion, and return to Oakland Symphony for the world premiere of Bodies On the Line and to Dallas Symphony for Rossweisse in Die Walküre

Her engagements in 2020 and 2021 included her debuts with Seattle Opera as Olga, with Indianapolis Opera as Suzuki, her return to St. Louis for Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ New Works, Bold Voices program (3 commissioned operas), her company debut with Cincinnati Opera as Mercédès as well as Beethoven’s Ninth with Kalamazoo Symphony.

In Europe, Melody Wilson sang in the world premiere of Mondparsifal Alpha 1-8 (Jonathan Meese’s adaption of Parsifal) under Simone Young at the Wiener Festwochen and the Berliner Festspiele, Mrs. Sedley in Peter Grimes and Mercédès in Carmen, both at the Theater Bremen (Germany) as well as Maddalena in Rigoletto at the State Opera Budapest. 

Norman Shankle – Tenor

American Tenor Norman Shankle is currently enjoying worldwide acclaim for his portrayals of Mozart and Rossini’s most famous tenors. The Boston Globe called Shankle “a real find, a singer of elegance, grace and conviction,” and the San Francisco Chronicle praised him equally as “clearly a singer to watch.”   

This season, Mr. Shankle will be featured with the National Philharmonic’s performances of Berlioz’s Requiem and Handels’ Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and Messiah with Glacier Symphony Orchestra. Operatic engagements include Baltimore Opera’s The Turn of the Screw in the role of Quint. Last season’s engagements included the tenor solo in Mozart’s Requiem and Adolphus Hailstork’s A Knee On a Neck, as well as Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, for the National Philharmonic, Sanctuary Road with North Carolina Opera, it all falls down and The Rift for the Washington National Opera, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for Helena Symphony, Cassio in Otello for Pacific Symphony, and the performance and recording of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem at the Kennedy Center with the Choral Arts Society of Washington. He joined the Metropolitan Opera for The Enchanted Island, a contemporary take on the 17th-century genre of the pastiche, a Baroque fantasy which brought together arias and ensembles by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell, and other composers.

Malcolm Merriweather – Baritone

Grammy nominated conductor and baritone, Malcolm J. Merriweather, is Director of the New York Philharmonic Chorus and Music Director of New York City’s The Dessoff Choirs. He is an Associate Professor at Brooklyn College, and on the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. He has conducted ensembles in venues that include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Madison Square Garden, Westminster Abbey, and at the Vatican before Pope Francis. His repertoire covers everything from Bach to the world premiere recording of The Ballad of the Brown King by Margaret Bonds (AVIE Records).

He studied with Rita Shane and has been featured as a soloist throughout the United States and has premiered dozens of contemporary solo works. He was a fellowship recipient at Tanglewood. Dr. Merriweather has earned degrees from Eastman, Manhattan School of Music, and Syracuse University. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @maestroweather and at malcolmjmerrweather.com.

Dennis Whitehead Darling – Director

Dennis Whitehead Darling is an award-winning Stage Director working in opera, theatre, musical theatre and film.  His recent directing credits include: World Premieres of Marian’s Song (Houston Grand Opera), Sanctuary Road (North Carolina Opera) “Why I Live at the PO (UrbanArias), Buried Deep (End Station Theatre) and The Secret River (Opera Orlando).  Other works include Jelly’s Last Jam – A Concert Reading (Long Wharf Theatre), The Falling and the Rising (Arizona Opera), La Bohème (Opera Columbus), Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Carnegie Mellon University), The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (Red Mountain Theatre), Independence Eve (Opera Birmingham), Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Hattiloo Theatre/Spazio Teatro No’hma – Milan), Jelly’s Last Jam (Hattiloo Theatre), The Parchman Hour (Hattiloo Theatre), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Spazio Teatro No’hma – Milan), Intimate Apparel (University of Memphis), Movin’ Up in the World (Opera Memphis), Sunset Baby (Hattiloo Theatre), James and the Giant Peach (Circuit Playhouse), Blue Viola (Opera Memphis), Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting (Hattiloo Theatre), Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet (Hattiloo Theatre).  Associate Directing credits include:  AITAF on Broadway (Studio 54), The Last of the Love Letters (Atlantic Theatre), Light’s Out:  Nat “King” Cole (Geffen Playhouse), Skeleton Crew (Geffen Playhouse).  In 2018, he was selected by Opera Memphis as their Inaugural McCleave Fellow in Directing, a fellowship dedicated to fostering the careers of Stage Directors and Music Directors of color.  

Throughout his career, Dennis has expressed one major goal, “to tell emotionally engaging and provocative stories that challenge the viewer to see the world from a different perspective.” For more information, please visit his website at www.denniswhiteheaddarling.com

Everett McCorvey – Conductor

Everett McCorvey is a native of Montgomery, Alabama.  He received his degrees from the University of Alabama, including a Doctorate of Musical Arts.  He has performed in many cities around the world and theaters across the country, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, Aspen Music Festival, Radio City Music Hall, Birmingham Opera Theater, Teatro Comunale in Florence, Italy, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England, as well as performances throughout Spain, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Austria, Japan, China, Brazil, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Hungary, Mexico, Peru and France. His career has spanned all areas of the performing arts business from performer to musical director, stage director, voice teacher, producer, impresario, orchestra conductor, union representative, administrator and mentor.

McCorvey recently conducted Handel’s MESSIAH at the newly renovated David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. He also conducted the World Premiere of Composer Stella Sung and Pulitzer Prize Librettist Mark Campbels’s Opera, THE SECRET RIVER with Opera Orlando in December of 2021, and MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES with Kentucky Opera in November of 2022. McCorvey served as the Music Director and Conductor of the World Premier of BOUNCE, The Basketball Opera, conceived and directed by Gretha Holby with the lead composer Glen Roven and author and librettist Charles R. Smith, Jr. 

Dr. McCorvey is the founder and Music Director of the American Spiritual Ensemblewww.americanspiritualensemble.com a group of 24 professional singers performing spirituals and other compositions of African-American composers dedicated to keeping the American Negro Spiritual alive.  In its 27-year history, the group has presented over 600 concerts including 20 tours of the United States and 17 tours of Spain. Presently the American Spiritual Ensemble is the only professional ensemble of its kind dedicated solely to the American Negro Spiritual. 

Dr. McCorvey is of the belief that every citizen in the country should find ways to give back to his or her community, city or country.  He has been very active in his volunteer activities working to keep the arts as a part of the civic conversation and currently serves on many local, regional and national boards. In his home state of Kentucky, he is Chairman of the Kentucky Arts Council Board www.artscouncil.ky.gov  and nationally he is on the Sullivan Foundation Board of Trustees, www.sullivanfoundation.org, an organization dedicated to supporting young professional singers with career grants and study awards for continuing development.  He holds an Endowed Chair in Opera Studies/Director of Opera and Professor of Voice at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.  www.ukoperatheatre.org.  

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