"Friends of Freedom," an opera written by two Catholics, will debut Feb. 26, 1:30 p.m., at Schenectady High School.

The one-act opera, which lasts approximately 45 minutes, deals with the Underground Railroad through stories about individuals who helped slaves reach freedom in the mid-1800s.

"Friends of Freedom" was written by Kim Harris and Wm. Glenn Osborne, neither of whom had ever worked on an opera. She and her husband Reggie have performed throughout the country for the past 30 years. Mr. Osborne is director of music and organist for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.

Act one

Mrs. Harris came up with the opera idea as a thesis for her master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She will graduate in June.

She and her husband have used the story of the Underground Railroad for many years in their performances. As the result of extensive study and research, they have written many songs that tell that story.

"I love the opera," Mrs. Harris told The Evangelist. "This type of music utilizes many opportunities for performers, such as acting and singing, as well as engaging those who see and hear it. I wanted to tell a story, and I thought, 'Why not an opera?'"

Words and music

Mrs. Harris turned to Mr. Osborne for the music because "we had already worked together a few times, and I knew that he was familiar with composing music on the computer. This is what I was looking for."

He agreed to compose the music, although he admits that opera is not one of his favorite genres.

"Opera requires one to take a mental leap, suspend reality if you will," he said. "It can be difficult to compose. But this was aimed at children to introduce them to the form. It incorporates original music as well as spirituals. The audience gets connected; they have an opportunity to interact with the performers.

"The opera is long enough to tell the story Kim wanted to tell but short enough to keep everyone's attention, especially that of children. The finished piece really is suitable for everyone. It was a true collaborative effort."

(For more information, go to www.kimandreggie.com and click on opera. The opera will be performed as part of a day-long conference on the Underground Railroard. To register, go to www.ugrworkshop.com or call 432-4432.)

(2/24/05)