We couldn’t be prouder of Miles and Adamsville elementary chorus teacher Letricia Henson and Douglass High choral director Ben Polite, who currently are performing in the chorus for the Atlanta Opera‘s sold-out run of “Porgy and Bess” this week at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. It should be noted that the opera chorus already has received rave reviews, and we’d like to think Henson and Polite are two big-voice reasons why.
And this isn’t Henson’s first rodeo with George and Ira Gerswhin‘s iconic opera, which tells the story of African Americans in Depression Era Charleston, S.C. She sang in the opera chorus for the Atlanta Opera’s first mounting of “Porgy and Bess” back in 2005, and the following year performed the opera in Paris with the same group. (It marked the first time an American opera chorus of this kind was ever invited to perform in a European music hall, Henson notes.)
Polite was featured this past summer as the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy in the musical “I Dream,” about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was directed by APS alum and TV, stage ad movie star Jasmine Guy. Henson was featured in the operatic scene, “La Donna en Viola,” in Tyler Perry’s latest film, “For Colored Girls …” by Ntozake Shange. The scene was filmed this summer in Atlanta, also at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. Most recently, she was apart of the Commemorative Choir at the Annual Ecumenical Service Celebration for the life and contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
This production of “Porgy and Bess” is also notable for the opera welcoming legendary composer Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops.
“It’s a big honor to work with Maestro Lockhart,” Henson said. “He brings a freshness to the music for us. Yes, we’ve done it so many times. ne bring his own style. He’s a very accurate conductor, he’s very sensitive to the music, and he makes the music come alive and stays true to what is printed. He made us re-think some of the music, to have more nuances. There are certain parts of the choral sections where he’s asked us to be softer, and with more dynamics.”
Performing in productions such as these not only helps Henson hone her singing craft but also helps her bring a broader perspective on music back into the classroom.
“As a music teacher I’m called upon in the classroom not just to educate students on the fundamentals of music, but I also direct and manage the choral programs,” she said. “I try to pick up what I learned in the professional shows and to bring it to the productions that I do at my elementary schools.” (Read more about Henson here.)