Portland Opera Commissions New Piece for Portland Opera to Go Program

This 50-minute opera, intended for middle grade audiences, shares a biographical story of civil rights activist Beatrice Morrow Cannady

Portland, OR (March 28, 2022) – Portland Opera is thrilled to announce the creation of a new opera by composer Dave Ragland and librettist Mary McCallum for the fall 2022 Portland Opera to Go tour. Currently untitled, this 50-minute commission is inspired by the life and story of Beatrice Morrow Cannady, a prominent leader in Oregon’s cultural community and civil rights movement of the early 1900s. The piece will be workshopped with the community in April and will then tour schools throughout the state and region this fall. The work is being written for middle grade audiences, focused on fourth through ninth grades.  

“I am honored to take part in the creation of an opera based upon the life of Beatrice Morrow Cannady. Her story is a dynamic demonstration of vision, determination, activism, and community mindfulness. Her life's work is a component of Black history that needs to be told,” says composer Dave Ragland. “I firmly believe that opera is for everyone. I am elated that Portland Opera is taking initiative to create and produce operatic programming that effectuates community education. I hope that the students and adults who see the show are both entertained and inspired to make an impact in their respective communities."

This opera is part of a multi-year project to commission original operas highlighting the experiences of Oregonians and will be followed by operas about Asian and Pacific Islander, Native American, and Latinx communities. All will be developed with K-12 schools and communities in mind and toured throughout the state and region in subsequent years.

“Commissioning these new works for our Portland Opera to Go program is the direct result of the progress our company has been making toward realizing our strategic plan,” says Sue Dixon, Portland Opera’s General Director. “In creating these new works, we are focusing on harnessing the creativity and spirit that is unique to our home here in the Pacific Northwest.”

For over two decades, Portland Opera to Go (or POGO) has shared inclusive arts experiences with students, educators and community members around the region. In a typical year, POGO company members travel over 5,000 miles, to connect with approximately 13,000 K-12 students. Performances happen in school gyms, libraries, cafeterias, classrooms, and community centers—all with full costumes and portable scenery. Integrated in-class workshops and teacher’s guides, highlighting curricular connections aligned to state curriculum standards, are available each year. This tour will follow that similar format, launching with a world premiere performance at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center in September 2022.

“We are delighted to be working with an incredible team of collaborators, including composer Dave Ragland and librettist Mary McCallum, to create this new piece about such an important person in Oregon’s history,” shares Priti Gandhi, Portland Opera’s Artistic Director. “We are looking forward to sharing Beatrice Morrow Cannady’s story in schools this fall and into the future.”

To date, Portland Opera to Go has shared opera with more than 285,000 student and community audience members living in Oregon, southwest Washington, northern California, western Idaho, and northern Nevada; with a focus on schools with barriers to accessing the arts.

Portland Opera to Go is generously supported by Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation, U.S. Bank, BNSF Foundation, Kinder Morgan Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, PGE Foundation, Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust, The Standard, Schnitzer Steel Industries, John and Carol Steele, The Wheeler Foundation, with additional support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and the Arts Education & Access Fund.

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Dave Ragland, Composer

DAVE RAGLAND is a four-time EMMY-nominated composer, vocalist, and educator. He has been hailed as "uber-talented" and "Nashville's go-to composer" by the Nashville Scene. Dave received the 2021 American Prize in Composition, two Telly Awards, and two EMMY nominations for Nashville Opera's first ever commission, ONE VOTE WON -an opera commemorating the centennial of Women's Suffrage. Dave also received an EMMY nomination for composition and music direction for the Frist Art Museum's Nick Cave FEAT. Nashville. Dave was awarded Outstanding Music Director by the First Night Honors for Nashville Repertory Theater's production of Ragtime.

Dave served as Artist-in-Residence for OZ Arts Nashville during its 2020- 2021 Season. His residency culminated with the debut of his opera STEAL AWAY- a collaboration with Inversion Vocal Ensemble, Diaspora Orchestra, and shackled feet DANCE. Dave arranged "Lift Every Voice and Sing" for GRAMMY­ nominated opera singer Lawrence Brownlee for "Concert for Inauguration Day" presented by Washington National Opera. Additional composition credits include Los Angeles Opera, Portland Opera, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Nashville Symphony, Nashville Ballet, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Intersection Contemporary Ensemble, chatterbird, and GRAMMY-nominated ALIAS Chamber Ensemble.

For the past four seasons, Dave has served as Chorusmaster for Nashville Symphony's "Let Freedom Sing". He was the 2020 GRADY-RAYAM Negro Spirituals Foundation Composer-in-Residence, and a member of the inaugural cohort of composers for the National Teachers of Singing (NATS) Mentoring Program.

As Artistic Director, Dave oversees Inversion Vocal Ensemble - a regionally touring vocal collective that has performed with Brandi Carlile, Ruby Amanfu, Lynda Randle, Marcus Hummon, and Levi Hummon. Inversion has also shared the stage with Rivers Rutherford, The Fairfield Four, and Tanya Tucker. Previous engagements with Inversion include The National Civil Rights Museum, The National Museum of African-American Music, The Ryman Auditorium, Tennessee Arts Academy, Cheekwood, Nashville Symphony's Free Day of Music and Let Freedom Sing. Dave was a Composer Mentor for 91Classical's inaugural Student Composer Fellowship.

Dave has shared the stage with William Warfield, Louise Mandrell, and Jennifer Hudson for the Kennedy Center Honors. Dave currently serves on the board of American Choral Directors Association, Tennessee Chapter. Dave is a proud member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Learn more at www.daveragland.com

Mary McCallum, Librettist

 Mary McCallum received her B.S. and M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University.  She is the founder of SistaStyle Productions in Nashville, TN.  Writing highlights: Her play “SingleVille” was a winner of the D.C. Black Theatre Festival One Act Battle and was a mainstage selection for the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival.  Her play “Six Triple Eight” took top prize at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival and Tampa Bay Theatre Festival.   The movie version of “SingleVille” (writer, co-director, actress) won several awards in 2018 including Best Feature at the Twin Cities Black Film festival and the International Black Film Festival.  “Chasing Jeremy” was a screenplay winner at the British Urban Film Festival and a finalist at the Urban World Film Festival.  In 2019, she was a winner of the “Women Who Rock Nashville” award for the arts. In 2020, she was selected as the librettist for Nashville Opera’s first mainstage commission “One Vote Won”, for which she received a Telly Award and is currently nominated for a Regional Emmy Award.   In 2021, the screenplay version of "Six Triple Eight" won Best Screenplay at the JNX Film Festival and British Urban Film Festival. 

Interviews and more details are available upon request. 

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