Fast-rising American operatic baritone Will Liverman, tapped for major roles at principal opera houses across the country, makes his Cedille Records debut as a featured artist with Dreams of a New Day, an intimate, heartfelt recital he calls “a passion project . . . years in the making.”
Praised for his “unique combination of eloquence and unpretentiousness” (Opera News), Liverman has assembled a program of songs that portray the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the African American experience through poignant texts and expressive musical settings. His new album, with pianist Paul Sanchez, highlights Black composers across generations, from early 20th-century pioneers Henry Burleigh, Margaret Bonds, and Thomas Kerr to Robert Owens, Leslie Adams, and contemporary composers Damien Sneed and Shawn E. Okpebholo. Liverman commissioned Okpebholo’s Two Black Churches, which he recently performed to great acclaim at his Kennedy Center recital in conjunction with his winning the 2020 Marian Anderson Vocal Award. The Washington Post review called the set “absolutely devastating, and one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard all year.” This is its world-premiere recording. “One of the most versatile singing artists performing today” (Bachtrack), Liverman concludes the album with his own powerful arrangement of American folk singer-songwriter Richard Fariña’s “Birmingham Sunday.” Dreams of a New Day was recorded by the multiple-Grammy-nominated team of producer James Ginsburg and engineer Bill Maylone.
This album is a collection of art songs by African American composers, a field where it is often the same few pieces that get performed. Liverman does sing the Three Dream Portraits of Margaret Bonds, setting texts by Langston Hughes, and these have shown up fairly often on programs by Black artists. However, much of the rest of the program is revelatory, tracing the interchange between African American composition and poetry. None of the pieces directly uses material from African American spirituals, but one of the many strengths of Liverman’s readings is that he catches the inflections from spirituals that populate many of these songs and add to their power. Accompanist Paul Sánchez is adept in handling the range of expression here, and singer and pianist operate as a unit. The album is both compelling and groundbreaking.
– AllMusicGuide.com (James Manheim)