Cimarron Opera festival will celebrate spirituals in Norman

Cimarron Opera will present the Festival of Spirituals on March 24 in Norman.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: March 16, 2013
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Cimarron Opera will sponsor the 44th annual Festival of Spirituals at 6 p.m. March 24 at First Presbyterian Church, 555 S University Blvd.

This year's festival will feature original arrangements of traditional black spirituals. The spiritual song was a way for enslaved blacks in America to share experiences when talking was not allowed. They used spirituals to pass messages, express sorrow and communicate joy.

“Rhythmically, melodically and musically, these songs evolved into an art form so powerful and resilient it has influenced every American musical genre since,” opera manager Jennifer Skinner said.

Participants who have created original arrangements of old favorites include Andrew Marshall, composer-in-residence and conductor of the Jamaica Symphony; Irv Wagner, trombone professor at the University of Oklahoma and director of the OU Trombone Choir; Mervin Tay with the Boulevard Brass Quintet; Brandon Haynes, a graduate student at Oklahoma City University; and Patti Drennan, of First Baptist Church, who will perform a duet with her daughter Emily.

Other performers will be the Langston University Choir under the direction of Bonita Franklin; Donna Cox, an OU voice professor; Marcy Gonzales with Cimarron Opera; and Isaiah Bailey, a student at OCU and musical theater performer.

The concert is free, but donations are appreciated. For more information, call 364-8962 or go to www.cimarronopera.org.