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Chip Miller, Stage Director, Journeys to Justice
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 22 March 2021

journeys to justice Damien Geter introDamien Geter, Artistic Advisor, Curator of Journey to Justice. (Photo by Rachel Hadiashar)Portland Opera will present Journeys to Justice, an evening of art song, opera, and short pieces about love, justice, and experiences of being a Black American. Journeys to Justice will premiere on April 16th at 7:30 PM and be available online for 45 days, accessible via Portland Opera’s website. This collection of compositions was curated by Portland Opera Artistic Advisor Damien Geter and will be directed by Chip Miller, Associate Artistic Director for Portland Center Stage. The performance will feature Portland Opera’s 20/21 Resident Artists Lynnesha Crump, Jasmine Johnson, David Morgans Sanchez, Michael Parham, and Edwin Jhamal Davis, as well as soprano soloist Leah Hawkins, with Ithica Tell as the narrator. Lance Inouye conducts, and Nicholas Fox, Portland Opera Chorus Master & Assistant Conductor, is the collaborative pianist. 

The pieces include: Songs for the African Violet, words and music by Jasmine Barnes; Two Black Churches, composed by Shawn Okpebholo, with “Ballad of Birmingham” text by Dudley Randall and “The Rain” text by Marcus Amaker; “Your Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime, with music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Terrence McNally; The Talk: Instructions for Black Children When They Interact with the Police, words and music by Damien Geter; Night Trip, composed by Carlos Simon with libretto by Sandra Seaton; and Songs of Love and Justice by Dr. Adolphus Hailstork, with text by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There will be limited instrumentation featuring members of the Portland Opera Orchestra, and members the Portland Opera Chorus. The program will be sung in English with live English captions. 

The production begins with Songs for the African Violet, about the resilience that is demanded of Black women finding joy. We go to Two Black Churches, where we grieve with communities generations apart—both facing the aftermath of murder and hate crimes perpetrated by white supremacists. In “Your Daddy’s Son” we witness a desperate mother’s grief and song to her child, and with The Talk we share a coming-of-age conversation that is a matter of life and death. In Night Trip we stop at a gas station with a Black family on a road trip in Jim Crow America, and then we celebrate the choice to love—expressed through the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Songs of Love and Justice.

A trip through the eyes and experiences of Black Americans

“Journeys to Justice is an evening that invites the listener to take a trip through the eyes and experiences of Black Americans, not only from the point of view of trauma, but also in celebration of the culture and rich contributions to our society,” shares Damien Geter, Co-Artistic Advisor, curator of Journeys to Justice, and composer of The Talk.

Premiering on April 16, digital access will be available until May 31st. Digital passes to view this production have a suggested purchase price of $50 but will be available to patrons as a Pay What You Will option—with a minimum of $5. Digital passes will be available to purchase on Portland Opera’s website, starting April 1. A pre-show lecture with Damien Geter will be available starting April 10 on Portland Opera Onscreen.  

As part of the company’s commitment to the health and well-being of the staff, artists, ensemble, and audience members, Portland Opera has engaged a team of medical advisors to review all safety procedures and protocols for this production, ensuring the company is in line with the best and current medical advice on an ongoing basis. 

This production was made possible by generous support by Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America, Oregon Arts Commission, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and numerous other generous arts advocates and supporters.

Additional Engagement Opportunities:

The following events are free and open to the public, though registration is required.

Post-show Conversation
April 16, 2021, 9:00PM Pacific
Via Zoom. RSVP for link: eventRSVP@portlandopera.org

Company members and guests from the production will host a live post-show Q&A webinar. 

Artistic Insights: Curating Songs of Love and Justice 
April 6, 2021, 12:00PM Pacific 
Via Zoom.  RSVP for link: eventRSVP@portlandopera.org 

Panelists: Ithica Tell (panel moderator and Narrator in Journeys to Justice), Damien Geter (Portland Opera Co-Artistic Advisor, curator of Journeys to Justice, and composer of The Talk), Chip Miller (Associate Artistic Director for Portland Center Stage and director of Journeys to Justice), and Derrell Acon (Black Opera Alliance).

This 60-minute panel will discuss the curation of the six pieces making up Journeys to Justice, the shaping of these pieces into an evening performance, and explore questions around race within the experiences of both creating and observing art.  

You Are Here: Our Journey to Justice in PDX  
April 7, 2021, 12:00PM Pacific
Via Zoom.  RSVP for link: eventRSVP@portlandopera.org

Panelists: Leroy Bynum from Portland State University (moderator), Eliza Canty Jones (Oregon Historical Society), and Dr. Carmen Thompson (Visiting Scholar in the Black Studies Department at Portland State University). 

This 60-minute panel will focus on contextualizing Journeys to Justice within a historical perspective, looking specifically at the origins of white supremacy, Oregon’s racist past, and how current racism reverberates in the Black community today. 

Journeys to Justice Cast & Creative Team

  • Soloists:
    • Leah Hawkins 
    • Michael Parham
    • Lynnesha Crump 
  • Narrator: Ithica Tell 
  • Conchetta: Jasmine Johnson 
  • Uncle Wesley: Edwin Jhamal Davis 
  • Uncle Mack: David Morgans Sanchez
  • Collaborative Pianist: Nicholas Fox 
  • Conductor: Lance Inouye 
  • Stage Director: Chip Miller 
  • Set Designer: Tyler Buswell 
  • Costume Designer: Dominique Fawn Hill 
  • Lighting Designer: Jennifer Lin 
  • Sound Designer: Brian Mohr 
  • Accompanist: Sequoia

Dates, programming, artists, and details are subject to change. 

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