“Lift Every Voice and Sing”

Music: J. Rosamond Johnson
Lyrics: James Weldon Johnson

Soloman Howard, bass
Doug Peck, music director


“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is one of this country’s most beloved songs of hope and freedom. In 1919 it was designated “the Black national anthem” by the NAACP. The song was written in 1899 in a collaboration between two brothers: James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) wrote the inspiring text, which was set to an equally stirring melody by J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954). The elder Johnson’s novels and poems were central to the Harlem Renaissance, and he was also a prominent academic (the first Black professor at New York University) and diplomat (President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as U.S. consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua). Closely associated for years with the NAACP, James Weldon Johnson led the organization throughout the 1920s. 

The song was first performed by schoolchildren in Jacksonville, Florida, celebrating the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Included in nearly 40 hymnals, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is an essential piece for innumerable choirs and distinguished soloists across  America.


Soloman Howard

Soloman Howard

Previously at Lyric: Lawrence Brownlee and Friends concert, Wurm|Luisa Miller (both 2019|20).

An alumnus of Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artist Program who has rapidly risen to prominence, the American bass recently returned to both WNO (as winner of the Marian Anderson Vocal Award) and the Metropolitan Opera (Sarastro/The Magic Flute). Other important appearances have been Aida (Met, Madrid’s Teatro Real), Don Carlo (LA Opera), La bohème and Don Giovanni (The Santa Fe Opera, Teatro Municipal de Santiago), Das Rheingold (L’Opéra de Montréal, Canadian operatic debut), Semele (The English Concert, international tour), Simon Boccanegra (Bordeaux), The Magic Flute and Macbeth (Glimmerglass Festival), Jeanine Tesori’s The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me (WNO), and the title role/D. J. Sparr’s Approaching Ali (North Carolina Opera, WNO). Among Howard’s successes in concert have been Die Walküre (Miami Music Festival) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Los Angeles Philharmonic). He has also appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and on international tours with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.

Photo: Todd Rosenberg