"Oratorio Emancipation" honors Douglass

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC-TV) - The Rochester Oratorio Society will present "Frederick Douglass at 200" this Friday, February 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hochstein Performance Hall in Rochester.

ROS Artistic Director Eric Townell discussed the program Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.

"We have the Oratorio Society, its professional orchestra, African percussion and Western New York folk instruments all combined in the 'Emancipation Oratorio' by Glenn McClure," said Townell. "He's a professor at SUNY Geneseo and he wrote the piece for us, for our 2013 celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, and we're bringing it back this year because it has so many of those Frederick Douglass texts that we're very connected to."

Townell said the Rochester East High School Concert Choir will join two elite guest artists during the program. "Kearstin Piper Brown is a soprano. She lives here in Rochester and she works all over the world. She's world famous, literally, and she's singing with us, the lead role, the soprano role in that McClure piece. And then Jonathan Rhodes is a young tenor at the Eastman School of Music. He's the William Warfield Scholarship recipient there, and he's making his professional debut with the ROS here in Rochester on that Friday, so we're happy to have them."

The music will make this a memorable night. "It gives a very full picture of Frederick Douglass because in the first piece in the program, called 'Songs of the Slave,' it's the story of John Brown and Frederick Douglass - their relationship," explained Townell. "We have Dr. David Anderson re-enacting the older Frederick Douglass, and then Jonathan Rhodes, the tenor, singing the part of the younger Frederick Douglass, so it gives a well rounded image of the gentleman, the statesman and orator as we have come to know him. But a lot of times we don't understand that he was a young firebrand, and a rebel in his own right, and this gets that across. And then in the McClure piece we'll hear Western New York folk instruments and Gannean percussion."

Townell added, "All of the cultures are melding in this wonderful piece; very exciting, very driving rhythms, lots of African influence in it and some very important text by William Wilberforce and other abolitionists, and Susan B. Anthony as well as Frederick Douglass."

"Frederick Douglass at 200" is sponsored by a Humanities New York Action Grant.

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