Presenters: LaToya Lain, Casey Robards
Introduced by: Linda J. Snyder
Location: Cohiba 6-7
In 2003, HBO presented a documentary entitled Unchained Memories, a collection of slave narratives collected in interviews during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project and was narrated by famous African-American actors, reenacting the original dialogue. From the original interviews, we’ve learned about living standards, the long days, everyday chores, and tales of the “good” and “bad” slave owners.
"As I read these narratives and later watched the documentary, I began to see where the stories of these men and women are told through the Negro Spirituals. I saw the direct relationship of some of my favorite spirituals and the life stories of remarkable slave women, whose names, if not for these narratives, we would have never known.
"I was inspired to take these narratives and my own research about the institution of slavery and combine them with concert arranged Negro Spirituals to tell the story of one former slave woman through song. It is their courage, their strength, and their resiliency that has set an example for us all. It is on their shoulders that I stand and why I’ve chosen to honor them." ~ LaToya Lain
Applauded for her "wonderfully rich," "powerful," and "captivating" voice, young American soprano LaToya Lain, a native of New Orleans, studied at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, Florida State University, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She currently serves on the voice faculty of Central Michigan University where she has musically directed 42nd Street, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, A Chorus Line, Oklahoma!, and Spring Awakening.
Lain has performed opera, oratorio, and solo recitals throughout the United States and internationally. She recently made the fach change from mezzo-soprano to soprano and will make her debut as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Die Walküre with Trilogy Opera Company in New Jersey. She has performed the role of Countess Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), as Carmen, Lily (Porgy and Bess), Suzuki (Madame Butterfly), Zita (Gianni Schicchi), Tituba (The Crucible), Polinesso (Ariodante), La Principessa (Suor Angelica), Baba (The Medium), Ježibaba (Rusalka), Bianca (The Rape of Lucretia), Dame Quickly (Falstaff), and Madame Armfeldt (A Little Night Music). She has also performed as the soprano soloist in Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Dona nobis pacem at Carnegie Hall, Mozart's Requiem and as the mezzo soloist in Vivaldi's Gloria, Verdi's Requiem, Handel's Messiah, and Bach's Magnificat and St. Matthew's Passion.
Pianist and vocal coach, Casey Robards is known for her artistry, versatility and sensitive musicality. Recent engagements include accompanying instrumental and vocal recitals in China; Washington D.C.; Boston, MA; Madison, WI; New Orleans, LA; Albuquerque, NM; Corpus Christi, TX; the International Trumpet Guild conference; the Songfest Professional Development Program for College Teachers; an engagement with the Alma Symphony playing the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto and several faculty recitals at Central Michigan University where Dr. Robards is a Lecturer in Collaborative Piano. Dr. Robards is Director of Collaborative Piano at the Bay View Music Festival where she has been a faculty artist/vocal coach since 2008. Prior appointments include positions with Indianapolis Opera, Indiana University, and Oberlin Conservatory.