From Five Songs of Laurence Hope: “Worth While” & “Till I Wake”

Harry T. Burleigh, composer

Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory), librettist

Leroy Davis, baritone
Chris Reynolds, piano

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949) was America's first prominent Black composer. He also made an outstanding contribution as an arranger; his beautiful and totally authoritative versions of spirituals continue to be indispensable to soloists and choral ensembles all over the world. No doubt because he had a superb baritone voice (for which he earned immense admiration), all his music for vocal soloists exhibits a marvelous understanding and appreciation of what good singing is all about. The Pennsylvania native was already one of the finest singers in Erie by the time he finished high school. A graduate of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, the young Burleigh made the acquaintance of the mighty Czech composer Antonín Dvořák who, after Burleigh sang spirituals for him, was inspired to conceive the work that became his world-famous "New World Symphony."

Burleigh sang as baritone soloist at St. George's Episcopal Church in New York for 52 years. It wasn't until the late 1890s that he began composing his own concert songs, which within a decade established an impressive reputation for him nationally. His total output of songs is uncertain, but we know it is somewhere between 200 and 300. Two of the most beautiful come from the set of five he composed to texts of Laurence Hope (the pseudonym of English poet Adela Florence Nicolson, who lived most of her life in India). Each is sung by an unhappy lover. Titled "Worth While" and "Till I Wake," both soar with glorious, all-out lyrical fervor.



Leroy Davis

Leroy Davis

The baritone is a first-year member of the Ryan Opera Center. Recent highlights include debuts at the Lincoln Center Theater as George Armstrong in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel; Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in multiple roles in the world premiere of Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmon’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones (as a Gerdine Young Artist); the Phoenicia Festival as Belcore/The Elixir of Love; Boston Opera Collaborative as Leporello/Don Giovanni; and Odyssey Opera as Ernesto Malcolm/Giovanni Pacini’s Maria, Regina d’Inghilterra. Davis has also portrayed the Forester/The Cunning Little Vixen, Hannah Before/Laura Kaminsky’s As One, Joe St. George/Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne, and Pablo Picasso/Tom Cipullo’s After Life at Boston University’s Opera Institute. Previous credits include Maximilian/Candide as an Apprentice Artist with Chautauqua Opera. As a Studio Artist with Florentine Opera, his portrayals included Aeneas and Adonis/Dido and Aeneas and Venus and Adonis, Papageno/The Magic Flute, and Maitre D’ and Farley/Sister Carrie (world premiere and recording). He was also the bass soloist for Bruckner’s Te Deum with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Leroy Davis is sponsored by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.


Chris Reynolds

Chris Reynolds

The first-year Ryan Opera Center pianist is currently a doctoral candidate at The Juilliard School. He recently concluded his run as performance pianist for Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage’s chamber opera Intimate Apparel at the Lincoln Center Theater. Other recent performance venues include Bayreuth, Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, WQXR, the Kyoto Summer Music Festival, and the National Sawdust. A two-time winner of the Juilliard Vocal Arts Honors Recital Auditions, he has been a fellow at SongFest and Aspen Music Festival and School, as well as a Schwab Rising Star at the Caramoor Center for the Arts as part of the New York Festival of Song Emerging Artist Series. Reynolds has worked at the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater as an opera coach/répétiteur. He has given a series of lecture-performances at Columbia University and Union College in Schenectady, and has been on the faculties of the Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, William Paterson University, and the Mostly Modern Festival. Reynolds holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School. In Lyric’s 2021 Season, he will serve on the music staff for The Marriage of Figaro.

Chris Reynolds is sponsored by Nancy Dehmlow, Loretta N. Julian, and Philip G. Lumpkin.

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