Renowned soprano Kathleen Battle to perform Underground Railroad program at the Center

By DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, October 25, 2019 Artists Inspiring Community, News & Announcements

[About a 6 MIN read]

Renowned operatic soprano and five-time Grammy Award winner Kathleen Battle brings her critically acclaimed Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey performance to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on November 15 at 8 p.m., as part of the 15th anniversary Presenting Series season.

Ms. Battle, accompanied by the pianist Joel Martin and a combined choir, draws from numerous well-known spirituals, gospel, and traditional pieces. Selections may include Lord, How Come Me Here?, Wade in the Water, Roll Jordan Roll, City Called Heaven, I Don’t Feel No-Ways Tired, Fix Me, Jesus, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn You Me Roun’, and the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing.

After performing her Underground Railroad program in a sold-out show at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in November 2016, the audience demanded five encores, each greeted with a standing ovation. “Ms. Battle sang with remarkable freshness and beauty,” wrote Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. “She sent high phrases soaring and sang with ethereal elegance. The final standing ovation was tumultuous.”

Kathleen Battle’s soaring soprano has carried her to the heights of the classical music world. A captivating presence on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls, her impressive career extends beyond classical music to now include her work as a great interpreter of spirituals. Her pure emotional power in this music of joy and sorrow cuts through all cultural boundaries.

“She sent high phrases soaring and sang with ethereal elegance …”

The show takes its theme from the secret network of abolitionists, black and white, free and enslaved. This Underground Railroad helped provide safe passage and shelter for thousands of slaves escaping to freedom in the years before the U.S. Civil War. The performance includes readings of works by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and other civil rights giants.

Luminaries such as Marvin V. Curtis, Ed.D., dean and professor of music at the Earnestine M. Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University South Bend, are members of the performance’s Underground Railroad Festival Choir. The combined choir draws from vocalists in the South Bend-Elkhart region and University of Notre Dame students. Ms. Battle will lead the choir in a 3-day residency of rehearsal to fully engage the choristers in the authentic performances of spirituals and works by African-American composers.

Emorja Roberson, baritone, directs the Underground Railroad Festival Choir. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Notre Dame’s Program in Sacred Music. Roberson is also a pianist, composer and arranger, and vocalist. In 2019, he won first place in the 5th American Spirituals Voice Competition. He was also a Season 9 contestant on BET’s singing competition Sunday Best.

Other events related to Kathleen Battle’s Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey include:

  • The History Museum’s award-winning documentary on the St. Joseph River Valley’s African-American community from the 1820s through WWI featuring a significant section on Northern Indiana’s Underground Railroad sites. See it in the Voyages Gallery’s Free Life Theatre.
  • A planned presentation in 2020 of the Focus Features film Harriet screened at the Center’s Browning Cinema. The film stars Cynthia Erivo at Harriet Tubman and the Center’s 2019–2020 Presenting Series season-opening artist Leslie Odom, Jr. as the abolitionist William Still. Check our events page for date(s) and time(s).
  • Area book clubs are also encouraged to read Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Underground Railroad.


Kathleen Battle, soprano

Kathleen Battle’s critically acclaimed pageant Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey chronicles the courageous quest for freedom via the secret network traveled by America’s slaves and features Ms. Battle’s impressive vocal range and tone in spirituals, gospel, and traditional song.

Regular tickets are $47 and student tickets are $20. Community access $10 adult tickets are available with the code JOURNEY, which allows up to five free tickets for students age 18 and under per adult.

Friday, November 15 at 8 p.m.