City Called Heaven: Celebrating African American Composers in Honor of the Life and Legacy of Carmen Balthrop

City Called Heaven

Celebrating African American Composers in Honor of the Life and Legacy of Carmen Balthrop
Sunday, April 3, 2022 . 3PM
Special Announcement: 

Please note: The livestream for this event will only be available to stream live. The stream will not available to view afterwards.

Event Attributes

Presented By

Presented By: 

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Join us in person at The Clarice or watch the livestream from the comfort of your home.

Faculty, students and guest choirs come together in person for an encore concert celebrating African American composers—this time in honor of the late Carmen Balthrop, former professor of voice and opera who passed away in Fall 2021. Curated by the UMD School of Music’s IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) Committee in partnership with the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA), this jubilant celebration will shine a light on history and amplify the call for racial justice in the present through spirituals, narration, poetry and other musical works by Black composers including Florence Price, Harry T. Burleigh and William Grant Still. The concert will be co-hosted by CAAPA's Executive Director Terri Allen and Co-Founder Pamela T. Simonson with a warm welcome by the IDEA Committee's Co-Chair William Robin. UMD School of Music voice and opera faculty performers will include Kevin Short, Lester Green and Lori Şen along with a beautiful recording of City Called Heaven sung by Carmen Balthrop. Guest choirs include the Carmen Balthrop Branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians and the Heritage Signature Chorale.

The Clarice lobby concession bar Encore will not be open for food and beverage sales during this event.

Health + Safety

Patrons attending University of Maryland arts events are no longer required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. We continue to encourage audiences to wear a mask and stay current with vaccinations and boosters. Please see our Health & Safety information page for information about what to expect during your visit.

Greetings (MC / Narrators)
        Pamela T. Simonson, Co-Founder, CAAPA
        Terri Allen, Executive Director, CAAPA
        William Robin, IDEA Co-Chair, Assistant Professor, Musicology
“Among the Fuchsias” from Five Songs of Laurence Hope
Harry T. Burleigh (1866–1949)
        Thomas Lloyd, tenor
        Dr. Lester Green, piano
“An April Day”
Florence Price (1887–1953)
        Dr. Lori Şen, soprano
        Sepehr Davalou, piano
“Give Me No Body Without Your Soul” from Blue Steel
William Grant Still (1895–1978)
        Aleea Elaine Powell, soprano
        Alex Kostadinov, piano
“What Does He Know of Dreams” from Highway 1, U.S.A.
William Grant Still (1895–1978)
        Thomas Lloyd, tenor
        Dr. Lester Green, piano
“Love let the wind cry... How I adore thee”
Undine Smith Moore (1904–1988)
        Rhiannon Vaughn, soprano
        Erica Guo, piano
“Troubled Water”
Margaret Bonds (1913–1972)
        Richard Williams, piano
“He's Got the Whole World in His Hand”
arr. Margaret Bonds (1913–1972)
        Angeli Ferrette, soprano
        Dr. Monique Holmes, mezzo-soprano
        Dr. Lester Green, piano
“Genius Child” from Mortal Storm
Robert Owens (1925–2017)
        Henrique Calvahou, baritone
        Erica Guo, piano
“Thank God the Kids Alive” from Sunder
Nailah Nombeko (b. 1976)
        VaShawn McIlwain-Lightfoot, bass-baritone
        Alex Kostadinov, piano
“Hear De Lambs A Cryin’”
arr. Roland Hayes (1887–1977)
        Dr. Aaron Paige, tenor
        Peter Douglas, piano
"Toccata: Ride on King Jesus" from Cantata
arr. John Carter (1932–1981)
        Michele Cober, soprano
        Dr. Lester Green, piano
“For You There is No Song” from Five Millay Songs
H. Leslie Adams (b. 1932)
        Liangjun Shi, tenor
        Dr. Lester Green, piano
“When Thou Comest” from Let God Arise, Op. 35
Glenn Burleigh (1949–2007)
        Wayne Jennings, tenor
        Thomas Lloyd, tenor
        VaShawn McIlwain-Lightfoot, bass-baritone
        Dr. Lester Green, piano
“That's How Good God Is”
Phillip McIntyre (1951–1991)
        National Association of Negro Musicians
        Carmen Balthrop Branch
Poem - “Still I Rise”
Maya Angelou (1928–2014)
        Carmen Balthrop
“Praise the Lord”
Florence Price (1887–1953)
        Heritage Signature Chorale
        Stanley J. Thurston, director
The School of Music’s IDEA COMMITTEE, composed of undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty, has a mission to help promote inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in the school, the university and the surrounding community. Chaired by Mayron Tsong and William Robin, the IDEA committee advocates for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and other underrepresented voices in the School of Music, and in the broader music world and academy. The committee meets regularly to discuss new initiatives and changes to existing curricula that would create a more supportive and inclusive environment in the School of Music, and make recommendations to the school’s administration and individual divisions to improve diversity throughout the school and beyond.
THE COALITION FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE PERFORMING ARTS (CAAPA) - “Bringing Color to the Classics!®” - is a 501c3 arts organization that supports Black classical musicians, youth, and others in the performing arts by “Bringing Color to the Classics'' through the mission “The CAAPA Cause,” a five (5) point initiative based the acronym CAAPA: Community Outreach, Arts Education, Audience Development, Performance Opportunities and Arts Partnerships with pre-Covid programs including: Opera for Fun Youth Outreach Program; Scholarship Program; STAR Career Development Program; Sing for Seniors Recitals; REACH: International Outreach; Arias at Sea Blacks in Classical Music Cruises; CAAPA CAMP; MasterClass Series; The Performance Series. CAAPA pivoted their programming as a result of the pandemic to their virtual platforms Facebook LIVE and YouTube, which includes Chillax @ Home Performances; Vir-citals; OPERAations; Candid Cadenzas; and the Virtual MasterClass Series.
Founded by classically trained siblings; music director, conductor, and composer Victor Simonson and Washington National Opera soprano and music educator Pamela Simonson in 2003 to “give back to the community,” the organization gained 501c3 status in 2013. The next time you look at the CAAPA Logo, try and find the hidden musical symbols including a b clef, piano keys, and an Adinkra symbol signifying creativity. Contact CAAPA or visit, friend CAAPA on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
TERRI ALLEN, MC and narrator, is a New York native. She has played pivotal roles in arts administration for sixteen years, serving as the executive director of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA). She has taken the organization from two performances per season to nearly three dozen performances annually locally, nationally, and internationally, while increasing the budget ten-fold. Allen has also helped to rebrand CAAPA to include programs such as The Performance Series, Opera for Fun Youth Outreach, Scholarship Program, Sing for Seniors Recital Series, REACH: International & Ambassador Program, Opera Composer’s Project, and MasterClass Series.
Experience in her administrative, marketing, and advertising career spanning more than 20 years, Allen has overseen newspapers and magazines, as well as managing accounts for some of the top names for the Fortune 500 Times-Mirror, Newsday/Tribune Corporation, where she spent more than a decade managing account budgets in excess of $20 million dollars.
Having authored several books including the award-winning “Pearls of Wisdom from Three Generations,” Allen is also an inspirational speaker, writer and is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions.
Allen pursued degrees at Pace Law School, SUNY @ Stony Brook University, and Bethel Bible College. She currently lives with her husband of 22 years and business partner, Dale Allen, Ph.D. in Accokeek, Maryland.
PAMELA T. SIMONSON, MC, and narrator, full lyric soprano, author, and charity founder has been seen on stages throughout the United States and Europe with the Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, and the Glory Gospel Singers. Simonson has been a featured soloist with the American Center for Puccini Studies and in Washington National Opera’s productions of Porgy and Bess, Showboat, and Dead Man Walking. Simonson has also been seen in over 30 opera productions such as La Traviata, Eugene Onegin, Aïda, The Magic Flute, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Bohème, Don Giovanni, and Macbeth among many others. Simonson is on the roster for the American Spiritual Ensemble and has frequently performed the soprano solo in Handel’s Messiah throughout the Washington, DC metro area.
Simonson obtained her Bachelor of Music degree from Eastman School of Music in vocal performance, Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music, New York City, where she also served as assistant to the director for the Preparatory Division. She has a second level of Professional Certification in Orff Schulwerk Music Studies from George Mason University, Virginia. Simonson is the founder and director of the CAAPA C.A.M.P. (Cultivating Artists, Musicians, and Performers) and has served as director of music for Camp Arena Stage, Washington, DC for over 15 years and most recently serves as associate director. Simonson has been soprano section leader for New York City and Washington, DC area church choirs and is currently a vocal music teacher for Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. She conducts workshops, seminars, and coaches private music students in the region.
In 2014, Simonson was awarded the esteemed Prince George’s County “Forty Under 40” Award for her efforts in the arts community. With her mother and grandmother, she is the co-author of the award-winning book “Pearls of Wisdom from Three Generations.” Along with her musically gifted brother Victor Simonson, she is the co-founder of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts.
STANLEY J. THURSTON is founder and artistic director of The Heritage Signature Chorale, artist-in-residence at Washington National Cathedral, and artistic director emeritus of Washington Performing Arts Choirs. He has been a conductor with Kathleen Battle, Kiri te Kanawa, Denyce Graves, Wynton Marsalis, Canadian Brass, and Ramsey Lewis; and guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Civic Orchestra, Prince George's Philharmonic, Soulful Symphony and Romania’s Opera Constanta. Guest director appearances have included Choral Arts of Washington, Cathedral Choral Society, IN Series Opera, and Opera Americana. His concert venues include Carnegie Hall (NYC), The Kennedy Center, The Music Center at Strathmore, The Clarice, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Carter Barron Amphitheater, the United States Capitol, and DAR Constitution Hall. He is currently director of music ministries at Foundry United Methodist Church. On March 19, 2018, he conducted The Heritage Signature Chorale’s debut performance at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble. In 2019, Thurston led the 250-voice choir performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the National Symphony Orchestra.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NEGRO MUSICIANS, CARMEN BALTHROP CHAPTER: Carmen Balthrop was a consummate professional, masterful musician, accomplished pedagogue and reliable friend. She and her legacy continue to be an affirming presence and memory within the University of Maryland family and the DC Metropolitan arts community. In light of her transition and absence, her students and colleagues are continuing her legacy by establishing an adult chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians in her honor housed at the University of Maryland. The supreme mission of the Carmen Balthrop Chapter of NANM is to inspire, educate, and advocate a vast appreciation for the musicianship and compositions of Black composers; to create a space for networking, provide a support system for mentorship, and actively engage artists of different generations to promote and perform the works of BIPOC artists in the Greater DC Metropolitan area. We accept all scholars and practitioners of music regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, or creed. Carmen Balthrop was an artistic chameleon who performed a plethora of styles and genres of music while dismantling preconceived notions of what it meant to be a classically trained musician and Black performing artist. As a friend and mentor to her students, she instilled the lessons she learned through her years of success as she supported and respected their artistic journeys. We honor her legacy by welcoming musicians from various disciplines and look forward to collaborating and fellowshipping with all of you. Please join us for our official launch and artistic programming in the Fall of 2022. More information.
THE HERITAGE SIGNATURE CHORALE (HSC) is committed to preserving, at the highest possible level, the performance art tradition of African American choral music, especially the Negro Spiritual; to elevating the African American singer and composer in all musical genres; and to bringing a unique interpretation of classical music from America, Europe, and other regions of the world.
Founded in 2000 by Stanley Thurston, HSC is an independent Washington, DC-based choral arts organization. It is made up of 85 volunteer choristers, serving all demographics throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV).
The Chorale began its 19th season performing at the NW DC Petworth Community Festival of Cultural and Historical Exhibits, and as the Chorus with the NSO Pops, in a film screening of the movie "Get Out" at the John F. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Our HSC Presents! Master Performance, with HSC and full orchestra and organ, featuring DC-area African American composer Darin Atwater's Proclamations. The Chorale also performed Porgy & Bess at the National Orchestral Institute and Festival at The Clarice, University of Maryland College Park campus. We ended our 19th season with our signature Annual Concert, "Showcase of HSC Performing Ensembles" at First Congregational Church, downtown, Washington, D.C.
During HSC's 20th season, we offered 20 virtual programs. Additionally, we held a collaborative performance with the Cathedral Choral Society (Washington National Cathedral) and offered a virtual performance and panel discussion in recognition of Black History; (PG Department of Parks and Recreation History).
We opened our 21st season with a virtual performance, Spirituals: The Mother Music, the second episode of our exciting project (I, Too, Sing America), with the Cathedral Choral Society presenting performances by HSC, including Steal Away (arr. Roland Carter), Daniel, Daniel, Servant of the Lord (arr. Undine Smith Moore) and other great favorites.
The Chorale provides a venue for showcasing artists, composers, and arrangers who share this commitment, thereby fostering community awareness and appreciation of this important legacy.
We envision a new generation of listeners who will understand and appreciate the historical legacy of the Negro Spiritual through education and performance.
In remembrance of Carmen Balthrop (1948–2021), reader and soprano, made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, having been the last of the First Place Winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Competition in New York. Acclaimed by The Washington Post as “electrifying... a consummate performer,” by The New York Times as “a voice of power and uncommon tonal purity” and “a rapturously beautiful voice” by The Miami Herald, this American soprano has an astonishing range of repertoire from Baroque opera and song to contemporary literature. She has performed leading roles with some of the world's major opera companies and symphony orchestras, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington Opera, Canadian Opera, Deutsche Oper (Berlin), Teatro La Fenice (Venice), the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony. Among her signature operatic roles are: Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, Violetta in La Traviata, Micaela in Carmen, Liu in Turandot, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Poppea in L’Incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi and Susannah in Susannah by Carlisle Floyd. Her historical Broadway debut was in the title role of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha.
While her international appearances have taken her to concert halls in Austria, Amsterdam, the Bahamas, China, Mexico, and Russia, in the United States, Balthrop has performed recitals in the White House, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Her Christmas art song recital, recorded live and performed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, was chosen to be aired on Christmas day (2000) by National Public Radio (NPR) as part of their Millennium celebration.
Balthrop’s discography, found on the Deutsche Grammophon, Elan, New World, and Fonit Cetra labels, includes the title roles of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha, Claudio Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, John Knowles Paine's Mass, and Leslie Burrs’ Vanqui.
Her compact disc recordings entitled “The Art Of Christmas, Volume I” and “The Art of Christmas, The Original,” heralded by the Washington Post as “a must have on everyone’s Christmas recording list,” are available at and Balthrop regularly collaborates with living composers including: Dominick Argento, Leslie Burrs, Frank Proto, and Robert Greenleaf among them.
Balthrop served as professor of voice & opera and associate director for Academic Affairs & Undergraduate Studies at the University of Maryland School of Music. She holds a place in the University of Maryland’s Hall of Fame and was formerly the coordinator of the School of Music's Voice & Opera Division. Her presence is truly missed and we will forever keep her in our hearts.
City Called Heaven Artists
Dr. Lester Green* ’05
Dr. Lori Şen ’19
Kevin Short**
Michele Cober* ’98, ’00
Dr. Aaron Paige* ’19
Graduate Students
Henrique Calvahou ’20
Sepehr Davalou
Erica Guo
Alex Kostadinov
Thomas Lloyd**
VaShawn McIlwain-Lightfoot** ’07
Aleea Powell
Liangjun Shi*
Rhiannon Vaughn
Richard Williams** ’19
NANM Representatives
Angeli Ferrette
Dr. Monique Holmes
Wayne Jennings
Peter Douglas
Heritage Signature Chorale
Stanley Thurston
*Students of Carmen Balthrop
**IDEA Committee Members
IDEA Co-Producers Thomas Lloyd, VaShawn McIlwain-Lightfoot and Kevin Short would like to give a special thanks to Terri Allen, Dr. Lester Green, Justina Lee, Jesse Leong, Aaron Muller, William Robin, Pamela Simonson, Mayron Tsong, ARHU Marketing & Communications and The Clarice’s Production and Guest Experience Teams.