Composer and pianist Damien Sneed premiered his new opera, “Our Journey: 400 Years from Africa to Jamestown,” at Carnegie Hall’sIsaac Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage on Friday, October 11, 2019, at the Sphinx Organization Performance and Gala, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Robert F. Smith.
Sneed joined fellow Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipients and the Metropolitan Opera’s J’Nai Bridges (mezzo-soprano) and Will Liverman (baritone), along with Sneed’s chorus, Chorale Le Chateau, and the Sphinx Virtuosi Orchestra, who will bring to life this overture from his ground-breaking opera during the evening’s finale performance.
Composed by Sneed, who also wrote the libretto, “Our Journey: 400 Years from Africa to Jamestown,” showcases musical styles from the African American diaspora from African rhythms to spirituals to gospel to jazz, all interwoven in the classical genre.
Sneed described the new opera as a highlight to the plights Africans experienced being forced into slavery and transported during the Middle Passage to America and include an excerpt from Psalm 137, “We hung our harps on the willows; for there, our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy.”
“It’s always a pleasure performing at Carnegie Hall,” says Sneed. “Out of the many times I’ve performed at Carnegie Hall as a solo vocalist, pianist, and conductor, this will be my third time performing a world premiere there. In December 2012, I was the solo pianist with orchestra for my friend Diogo Pereira’s composition Fiel Herzog and the second time in October 2017 accompanying baritone Justin Michael Austin on piano for my composition I Dream A World based on the poem by Langston Hughes.”
Sneed was also commissioned to compose a new chamber opera titled MARIAN’S SONG about the life of Marian Anderson for Houston Grand Opera, which will have its world premiere on March 5, 2020, at the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center.
The multi-genre recording artist has worked with jazz, classical, pop, and R&B with legends including the late Aretha Franklin and Jessye Norman, as well as Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, and many others. He established his label, LeChateau Earl Records, in 2009, which reflects his varied musical interests and features critically-acclaimed artists from classical, jazz, gospel, and other musical genres. He has released several CD projects, Jazz In Manhattan (September 2019), Damien Sneed: We Shall Overcome (January 2019), The Three Sides of Damien Sneed: Classical, Jazz and Sanctified Soul(July 2018), Broken To Minister: The Deluxe Edition (March 2015), Spiritual Sketches (June 2013), and Introspections LIVE (January 2010).
Damien Sneed recently joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches graduate-level courses in conducting, African American Music History, a singer/songwriter ensemble, a gospel music ensemble, and private lessons in piano, voice, and composition. Sneed studied at some of the finest conservatories and universities, including Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Music – Piano Performance; the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University; New York University, where he earned a Master of Music in Music Technology: Scoring for Film and Multimedia; and the Manhattan School of Music. Sneed will also graduate with his doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from USC in 2020. Sneed was a member of the faculty at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Nyack College. His other professional affiliations have included The Juilliard School as a staff accompanist, Jazz at Lincoln Center as an artistic consultant, and the City University of New York (CUNY) as a professor of music. In 2015, Sneed established the Damien Sneed Performing Arts Institute, a division of the Damien Sneed Foundation.