Chicago Opera Theater Brings “Freedom Ride” to Parker

In the third year of the Joan W. Harris Visiting Music Scholar in Residence program, Parker welcomed Chicago Opera Theater (COT) to campus this week. COT is a resident company at the Harris Theater that has served as Chicago’s premier producer of rare and contemporary opera for nearly 50 years. The school community was thrilled when COT representatives visited to share the creative process, and some behind-the-scenes information, for their world premiere production Freedom Ride. This opera centers on the 1961 Civil Rights Activist Freedom Riders and the fictional Sylvie Davenport as she “is forced to choose between her academic future and the future of the nation in a story that highlights how far we’ve come and how far we still have left to go.”

Beginning Monday with a special Morning Ex for the 3rd through 12th grades and continuing Tuesday night during a talk to the larger gathered community, COT Director of Education Linden Christ led Freedom Ride composer Dan Shore and soprano Dara Rahming, who plays the lead character Sylvie Davenport, through a panel discussion delving further into this opera. Covering topics from the opera’s creative inception to lessons learned along the way to reactions seeing/performing in the play opening night, the audience had an in-depth look at the process of producing this work.

However, the night would not have been complete without performances. To kick things off, Rahming performed a song from Freedom Ride in character as Davenport. Then COT 2019–20 Young Artists John Mathieu, Morgan Middleton, William Ottow, Samantha Schmid and Ryan Stoll took to the stage to perform as well. Finally, all the COT artists joined Parker’s Upper School Concert Choir and their peers Isabella Charfoos ’21, Sam Goldblatt ’27, Victoria Grove ’26, Gigi Lopez ’20 and Anais Morris ’28 for a finale.

This exciting program brought together the arts, social justice and history for students—a wonderful expression, through progressive education, of Parker’s democratic values.

Click here for photos from this experience.

The Joan W. Harris Visiting Music Scholar in Residence program was established to provide experiences for students to find inspiration, learn, appreciate and understand the transformative power of classical music. The inaugural visitors in the 2017–18 academic year were members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Music of the Baroque spent time with our students at the school last academic year.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.