October 14, 2009

From Kirke Mechem's Opera About John Brown

More anent John Brown, as the 150th anniversary of the raid on Harpers Ferry is upon us.

Last year, as part of a continuing focus on music inspired by John Brown, I posted a piece here at FotM on the opera by Kirke Mechem, John Brown, which had just premiered in a performance by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

Here is a more recent concert performance of one of the highlights of the opera, "Dan-u-el." Mechem describes it thus:

The scene is based on a real incident. In December 1858, Brown helped a slave family escape to Kansas from Missouri, and then led them to safety into Canada. During that time, the mother gave birth to a boy whom she and her husband named after John Brown.

Some of the words come from the spiritual, "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?"; the others from my libretto. The music is original.
The fact that "Dan-u-el" seems to be entering the repertoire of adventurous modern "classical" pieces performed by college and university chorales is one more small but happy development in the reclaiming of John Brown as one of this country's greatest heroes.

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