Baritone Anthony Turner, a voice professor at Wagner College and the NYU Tisch New Studio on Broadway, will perform a one-man song cycle, “Who Am I?”, next month at the National Portrait Gallery.
Set to live music composed by Mary Carol Warwick and influenced by the poetry of incarcerated youth, “Who Am I?” features three instrumental musicians: bassoonist Elise Wagner, percussionist Luke Hubley and pianist Paul Boyd.
The songs in “Who Am I?”, influenced by the poems in Jeannine Otis’s “The Gathering: City Prayers, City Hope,” offer a tribute to the victims of gun violence while conveying a sense of hope for our communities, our criminal justice system and humanity.
“I first encountered these poems, which were predominantly written by incarcerated youth, at Jeannine’s book signing in October 2007 at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City,” Turner said. “At that time, I was a volunteer voice instructor at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island, and the issues of incarceration, marginalization and victimization found in these poems were very much in my consciousness. Tragically, these issues persist to date.
“In March 2008, I had the honor of premiering ‘Shikoku Postcards,’ which was written for me by Houston composer Mary Carol Warwick,” Turner said. “Since her musical expression uniquely synthesizes words and melody, I approached her with my idea for a song cycle based on ‘The Gathering.’ Our collaboration started later that year.”
“Who Am I?” premiered in April 2013 at Zilkha Hall in Houston and had its New York City premiere the following February at LaMama Theatre.
Turner has performed throughout the United States and Europe in solo recitals, concerts and musical theater performances with the Lincoln Chamber Orchestra, Omaha Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony, among others. His musical theater roles have included Tony Esposito in “The Most Happy Fella,” Clarence Thomas in “Clarence and Anita,” Josh Gibson in “The Summer King,” William Henry in “Harriet Tubman” and Harry Easter in “Street Scene.”
Anthony Turner sings “Who Am I?” on Sunday, Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. at the McEvoy Auditorium in the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery, 8th and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C. RSVP online to reserve your tickets.
The National Portrait Gallery is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
For more about Anthony Turner, read his Staten Island Time Capsule profile by Pearl Minsky.