Daniel Roumain removed from Tulsa Opera Concert on Lyrics in Commissioned Piece

The Tulsa Opera has taken Daniel Roumain off its program for an upcoming concert based on texts he wrote for a commissioned work.

The Tulsa Opera commissioned four new pieces by contemporary black composers as part of the upcoming Greenwood Overcomes concert on Saturday, May 1st, marking the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

All four composers were asked to write a piece for a particular singer and his voice type. Daniel Bernard Roumain was commissioned to compose a piece by the mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

The piece that Mr. Roumain had submitted, “They Still Want to Kill Us,” contained lyrics that Ms. Graves found uncomfortable singing. A statement from Tulsa Opera said that Ms. Graves had raised her concerns to Mr. Roumain and he was asked if he would consider changing his lyrics. He refused.

According to a tweet from Roumain, the lyrics in question were “God Bless America, God Damn America!”

Ms. Graves said, “As a black woman, I am a great supporter of all black lives, black expression and creativity. I have no problems with strong writing, but I felt that it was inconsistent with my personal values. I couldn’t Find an honest place to express the lyrics as they were presented. “

Mr. Roumain was informed that his work would no longer be part of the concert program as Ms. Graves found it uncomfortable to perform his piece as written and he was unwilling to compromise. He receives his full commission fee.

Ken McConnell, General Manager and CEO of Tulsa Opera, said: “Tulsa Opera is proud to bring together 22 living black composers and eight notable black singers for the Greenwood Overcomes concert, marking an important centenary across the city Events will be presented. Although the concert artists and Tulsa Opera are disappointed that no compromise could be reached on one of the commissioned works, they remain determined to present a memorable civic event. “

Read the full statement at https://tulsaopera.com/.

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