SATURDAY 8 JULY at 7:30 pm
Our new world premiere gospel/jazz opera A Gathering of Sons takes us on a journey through the lives of a young Black man, a white police officer, parents of a newborn child, and a collection of spirits who watch over the world. With a score by Dwayne Fulton set to a libretto by Tameka Cage Conley, and stage direction by Mark Clayton Southers, A Gathering of Sons is a story of love and redemption.
A confrontation with history and the way it breathes through the present, this poetic premiere is a conversation on our biases and how we heal after tragedy. It is an eye towards freedom and the work our communities need to do to reach it. Full of magic, fear, hope, pain, and, still, an even more powerful love.
A Gathering of Sons is the second new work in PFO’s “Music that Matters” series of commissioned works, which began with the development of A New Kind of Fallout (2015), inspired by the life and work of Pittsburgh-born scientist Rachel Carson.
Meet the Creative Team
Immediately following the opening night performance on Saturday 1 July, members of the creative team, including librettist Tameka Cage Conley, composer Dwayne Fulton, and stage director Mark Clayton Southers, will speak from the stage about the creative journey that led to A Gathering of Sons. Please join the conversation.
“We Are One,” the triumphal march that solidifies the theme of A Gathering of Sons, leaves the audience thrilled in their bones. [Read full review...]
—Pittsburgh City Paper
I’ve watched Tosca throw herself off of the parapet. I’ve watched Mimi linger and die. I’ve witnessed Carmen’s heartbreak, and the Flying Dutchman’s torment. I’ve seen dozens of tragic operas. None have ever moved me to tears. I openly cried more than once during A Gathering of Sons. [Read full post...]
—Three Rivers Community Foundation blog
Terrific...riveting...It deals with the spiritual aspects of justice and retribution in a nation where the balance between the races may be inherently unfair. [Read full review...]
The new opera A Gathering of Sons, which is having its world premiere at Pittsburgh Festival Opera under the direction of Mark Clayton-Southers, addresses one of the most pressing issues of our current moment: the tragedy of police violence against African-American men. [Read full review...]
—The Pittsburgh Tatler
A word to future audiences who might shy away because they don’t particularly care for opera: the influences of jazz, R & B and gospel make this work stand apart from the stereotyped conception of that genre of music. [Read full review...]
—Pittsburgh in the Round
Sung in English with projected titles in English
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission
Strong language is used in this production
|Libretto||Tameka Cage Conley|
|Director||Mark Clayton Southers|
|Fight Choreographer||Randy Kovitz|
|Scenic Design||Hank Bullington|
|Projection Design||Hank Bullington|
|Costume Design||Tony Sirk|
|Lighting Design||Bob Steineck|
|Hair and Makeup Design||Jina Pounds|
|Sound Design||Julia Black|
|Stage Manager||Michele Lee Betts|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Ericka Royster|
|Freedom||Austin Vassar Keys|
|Great Father||Leslie Howard|
|The Speaking Earth||Demareus Naomi Cooper|
|The Sky That Can't Stop Seeing||Charlene Canty|
|The Waters||Michele Williams|
|The Blood||Rodolfo Giron|
|Medic 1||Lesley Baird|
|Medic 2||Sam Lothard|
|The Sons (Chorus):||William Banks|
|André J.C. Southers|
On a cold street, an officer believes he takes a young Black man’s life in secret. But the cover of night does not conceal. The police officer, Lockdown, steals something precious from the man, Victor. From above, a collection of Spirits observes this act. The Sons, as they are called, appeal to The Speaking Earth, The Sky That Can’t Stop Seeing, The Blood, and The Waters to intercede on their behalf on Earth. As Victor dies his brother, City, welcomes his first child into the world with his wife. City and Victor’s mother, Victoria, learns the news of both of her sons. The police officer, Lockdown, tries to justify what he has just done, but is met face to face by his closest companion.
Victoria confesses to City what has happened to his brother Victor. Lockdown, still grappling with what he has done, is confronted by the Spirits. They accost him and he collapses, broken, having realized for the first time what he has done. An enraged City finds Lockdown back on the street. City draws his gun. A tragedy follows, but fate is altered by unseen hands.
Seeking Unity through Powerful Storytelling
Working on a social justice piece is always a heavy process. Aligning your inner emotions to find that centered space to work from is the most difficult part.
Much like discussing race, our emotions dictate our actions. More times than not the masses stay silent. That's not the case inside of A Gathering of Sons. Here, our characters are both in the flesh and of the spirit world, and they each have the opportunity to express themselves fully.
I'm humbled to be paired up with our librettist Dr. Tameka Cage-Conley and composer Dwayne Fulton. Two artist that I admire. Artistic Director Jonathan Eaton and his staff have put in place a platform for each of us to collaborate to tell this powerful story of truth, redemption, atonement, and healing.
It's been an exciting journey thus far, I hope that you enjoy your ride through this and I pray that you take away something from this work. Whether it's family unity, community unity, world unity, justice, or merely gaining a better understanding and appreciation of life.
Meet the Composer
Dwayne Fulton is the minister for music at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. He conducts one of the great gospel choirs of this country. In past years, he was the musical director for Opera Theater's production of Gospel at Colonus in 2011, and the composer for Bridal Suite in 2012 and Gospel Suite in 2013.
Fulton is an accomplished pianist and producer, having accompanied such greats as Kirk Franklin and Keith Sweat. He orchestrated and provided backup groups for artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Barry Manilow. His music and choir have been featured on CBS for Easter celebrations.
Tameka Cage Conley
Dr. Tameka Cage Conley is one of Pittsburgh’s rising star authors. She is a literary artist who writes poetry, fiction, plays, and essays. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships, residencies, and awards, including the Eben Demarest Trust Grant in support of her novel-in-progress, This Far, By Grace. She received the doctoral degree in English in 2006 from Louisiana State University, where she was a recipient of the Huel Perkins Doctoral Fellowship. In 2010, she received the August Wilson Center Fellowship in literary arts. Her first play, Testimony, was produced at the Center in May 2011. She has now been invited to be a fellow in the celebrated Iowa Writers Workshop.
Learn More about Tameka
Read her profile from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Person of interest: Tameka Cage Conley, poet and playwright" and Three Poems by Tameka Cage Conley