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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

King Institute for Faith and Culture presents "Sing Sistah Sing"

Andrea Baker brings her “Sing Sistah Sing!” to First Prebyterian Church, Bristol, Tennessee, April 15 at 7 p.m.
Andrea Baker brings her “Sing Sistah Sing!” to First Prebyterian Church, Bristol, Tennessee, April 15 at 7 p.m.

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | March 27, 2019

Monday, April 15 the King Institute for Faith and Culture presents Sing Sistah Sing! — an award-winning celebration of the sound and breadth of African-American female voices throughout the centuries. Conceived and performed by internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker, the show celebrates musical greats such as Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Donna Summer, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. Sing Sistah Sing! features traditional storytelling and music ranging from African-American field songs to spirituals, gospel, jazz, blues and opera. The concert is held at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Bristol Tennessee. Baker’s acclaimed new solo CD is available for sale at the event. This is a non-ticketed event. Details available at http://faithandculture.king.edu.

In her new program, Baker evokes the pantheon of African-American vocalists and their struggles for civil rights and artistic freedom. Whether they chose jazz, pop or opera to express their inner truth, these women all carried in their souls and voices the sounds of their ancestors’ songs of the plantation. Only Baker could contemplate such a demanding program, drawing as it does on musicality, a profound connection with American history and direct personal experience. Baker’s own great-grandfather Thomas Nelson Baker Sr. was born into slavery, made his way to Massachusetts, and became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University. The long-time minister of the Second Congregational Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he lent inspiration for Sing Sistah Sing!” via an essay he wrote in 1908, titled “The Negro Melodies.”

“Sing Sistah Sing!” has been performed to rave reviews in Europe and was spotlighted in “The Best of the Fringe” in Edinburgh’s prestigious Fringe Festival.

Baker begins her spring 2019 tour in San Francisco, where she studied with the prominent operator artist and teacher Blanche Thebom and made her operatic debut in 1994. Throughout the tour, her fans are treated to the rollicking piano of Peter Maleitzke, a popular and multi-talented San Francisco-based artist.

Like the women she celebrates in “Sing Sistah Sing!,” Baker is an artistic trailblazer. She is the first African American to sing Fricka, Waltraute, Erda and Second Norn in Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” in the Chinese premiere of the work at the Beijing Arts Festival; the first African American Carmen in Australia at the Sydney Opera House; and the first African American to sing the role of Ortrud in the South Korean premiere of Wagner’s “Lohengrin” at the Daegu Opera Festival.

In her quest to explore her family and cultural heritage, Baker also creates documentaries for BBC Radio 4, as well as BBC Radio Scotland with noted producer Pauline Moore. Her BBC Radio 4 documentary “A Man’s a Man for a’ That: Frederick Douglass in Scotland” charts the abolitionist’s time in Scotland, England, and Ireland in the mid-1840s. In 2017, Baker collaborated with Scott Bridges and the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Task Force to bring “Sing Sistah Sing!” to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where she and Bridges also interviewed numerous early foot soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement.

Topics: Music, Theatre