“Even if it costs you your life. Write it. Write…Every word. Every detail…Write it down…Write. Record. Recount. Chronicle. Write.” — William Still, The Underground Railroad Records
On August 18, 2022, Paul Moravec’s lauded oratorio Santuary Road — written in collaboration with librettist Mark Campbell — will be presented at the Chautauqua Institution (in western New York State). Music director Rossen Milanov leads the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra who will be joined by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. Soloists include: Laquita Mitchell, soprano; Melody Wilson, mezzo-soprano; Noah Stewart, tenor; Malcolm J. Merriweather, baritone; and Dashon Burton, bass-baritone.
Sanctuary Road is directly based on the writings of American historic figure William Still — the son of a former slave, a Philadelphia-based businessman, writer, philanthropist, historian, abolitionist and a conductor for The Underground Railroad — who chronicled the stories of the many persons who travelled along the path to freedom. The oratorio was commissioned by the Oratorio Society of New York which premiered it in May 2018 at Carnegie Hall, led by Kent Tritle. The following season, Milanov conducted the second performance of the 45-minute work with the Columbus Symphony and Chorus, as part of the orchestra’s American Festival. This is the first performance at Chautauqua, and the featured-work of the orchestra’s “Paths to Freedom” concert.
Milanov comments. “Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road is a perfect work for starting meaningful conversations about equality, race, and the meaning of freedom…I am excited to bring to Chautauqua this ground-breaking and deeply emotional work. Sanctuary Road was originally scheduled for the 2020 season after extremely powerful and still-resonating performances conducted by me with the Columbus Symphony and Chorus in 2019. I admire Paul’s music, his gift for writing eloquently for voice and the importance of bringing these powerful stories from our history to life…Sanctuary Road is a unique opportunity to see the history through the eyes and the hearts of the people that created it. The words of Mark Campbell tell the story of hope, courage, and path to freedom and Paul’s music makes them soar. This vivid and emotionally gripping oratorio inspires us to revisit the darker chapters of our history as a nation and find in them surprising parallels with the time in which we live.”
More Sanctuary Road news: In 2021, the Naxos premiere recording of Sanctuary Road (Naxos 8559884) received a Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance. In March of this year, Sanctuary Road received its first, fully-staged operatic production at the North Carolina Opera directed by Dennis Whitehead Darling; which, in turn, created an additional option for organizations to present the work either in concert form or on stage.