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A Series of Cultural Events To Engage Community, Scholars, Legendary Artists and Historians (March 15–31) in Countdown to NY Premiere of CHARLIE PARKER’S YARDBIRD (April 1 & 3)

When Opera Philadelphia and Harlem’s Apollo Theater present the New York premiere of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD (April 1 & 3) – a new opera by Harlem residents Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette Wimberly – it will mark the first time that opera is performed on the Apollo’s stage, and the first time Opera Philadelphia produces in New York. To celebrate this historic occasion, the Apollo announced a series of related cultural events, to be offered at the legendary theater and other community institutions in the weeks leading up to the premiere. These include a free symposium about Parker’s music and legacy at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, with Columbia University jazz scholar and historian Professor Robert O’Meally, award-winning poet, playwright, and YARDBIRD librettist Bridgette Wimberly, host of WBGO-FM’s Weekend Jazz After Hours Sheila E. Anderson, and WQXR host Terrance McKnight (March 15); a Charlie Parker Harlem Tour led by Harlem historian John Reddick (March 26); the Apollo Walk of Fame induction of the influential saxophonist with presentations by Parker contemporary Jimmy Heath and more (March 30); and a special dress rehearsal of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD for community and education groups (March 31).

Mikki Shepard, Executive Producer of the Apollo Theater, explains:

“We are so excited to bring YARDBIRD to the Apollo and, leading up to the New York premiere of the show, we hope that these events will provide context and a fuller picture of the creative genius that was Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and a better understanding of the YARDBIRD opera. Before people walk through the doors to see the show, we want them to understand the essence of ‘Bird.’  From the Walk of Fame induction to the symposium at the Schomburg Center, each event is designed to celebrate and explore Parker’s brilliance, his legacy in the jazz community and his relationship with the Apollo. Also, through these programs, the Apollo celebrates the importance of its community – artists, audiences and students. As a cornerstone for the Harlem community, we always strive to find ways to bring them into dialogue through our artistic programming, and this celebration of Parker is in line with our mission.”

Details of the events, which have been underwritten by OPERA America: The Opera Fund, are provided below.

Schomburg Center Symposium (March 15; free)

On Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30pm, there will be a free panel discussion about the life and legacy of Charlie Parker at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This will be moderated by Robert O’Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and founder of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, and panelists will include Bridgette Wimberly, Sheila E. Anderson, and Terrance McKnight. Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the country’s most powerful chroniclers of the black underclass,” Wimberly is the librettist of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD as well as an award-winning poet and the author of eight plays. She has been commissioned and produced by theaters Off-Broadway and across the country, including Opera Philadelphia. A Columbia University Community Scholar, Anderson is the host of WBGO-FM’s Weekend Jazz After Hours, and of Harlem’s annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. McKnight is the weekday evening host of WQXR, New York’s only dedicated classical station, and on Saturday evenings he also hosts All Ears with Terrance McKnight, a program about musical discovery, which was honored with a 2010 ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award.

The evening will also feature a performance by T.K. Blue, composer of Latin Bird, a Latin Jazz-themed Charlie Parker tribute CD. Blue has performed with such eminent jazz artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, Regina Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paquito D’Rivera, and Jimmy Scott.

This event takes place at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard between 135th and 136th Streets. It is free and open to the public, but space is limited, and pre-registration is recommended; click here to register.

Charlie Parker Harlem Tour (March 26; free)
On Saturday, March 26 at 12pm, Harlem historian, lecturer and architect John Reddick will lead a tour of historic Harlem landmarks associated with Charlie Parker’s life and career, from Minton’s Playhouse, where the young saxophonist played jam sessions, to the Abyssinian Baptist Church, where his funeral was officiated by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Each year since 1993, the Harlem community has celebrated the legendary saxophonist with the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Marcus Garvey Park, and his association with the neighborhood was a rich one. Reflecting this, additional tour stops will include the Dewey Square Hotel, where Parker briefly lived, the Savoy Ballroom and Small’s Paradise, where he performed at the height of his fame, and the Cecil Hotel, Mt. Morris Park, Dan Wall’s Chili House, and Clark Monroe’s Uptown House. This event is free, but space is limited, and pre-registration is recommended; click here to register.

Apollo Walk of Fame Induction (March 30)
On Wednesday, March 30 at 5pm, the Apollo Theater will induct Charlie “Yardbird” Parker into the Apollo Walk of Fame. The ceremony will include presentations and remarks by Apollo President & CEO Jonelle Procope; renowned instrumentalist, composer, arranger and educator Jimmy Heath, who performed with Charlie Parker; Opera Philadelphia’s President and General Director David B. Devan; and YARDBIRD star Lawrence Brownlee. Additionally, the Apollo Theater and Opera Philadelphia leadership will make a major announcement.

Parker had a rich history with the Apollo and performed there many times. It was the Apollo that led the way in introducing a broader audience to bebop when, in 1943, Theater owner Frank Schiffman booked experimental bebop band the Earl Hines Orchestra, which included Little Benny Harris, Dizzy Gillespie, and Parker himself. He and Gillespie would perform their new style of music at the Apollo and other jazz clubs and after-hours venues, ushering in a new era that resulted in the transformation of big band swing to bebop. Parker was widely considered one of the architects of the bebop sound and conducted bold musical experiments during his engagements at the Apollo, realizing his lifelong dream of recording with string instruments in 1949. The following year, the first live performances of his cutting edge Charlie Parker with Strings, a recording that bridged the gap between jazz and classical music, was presented at the Apollo.

The Apollo’s Walk of Fame honors legendary performers who have helped shape the American music landscape and built the Apollo into one of the world’s most enduring cultural institutions. The plaques will be installed underneath the Apollo’s marquee on 125th street, alongside plaques of such Apollo legends as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, and Patti Labelle.

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD: open dress rehearsal (March 31)

On Thursday, March 31 at 2pm, there will be a special dress rehearsal of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD for community and education groups. Set in the famed Birdland jazz club on March 12, 1955, the day Charlie Parker died, Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD invites audiences directly into the mind and heart of the great saxophonist as he composes his final masterpiece, and revisits the inspirations, demons, and women who fueled his creative genius.  The New York premiere reunites Lawrence Brownlee, the “energetic, bright-voiced tenor” (New York Times) in the title role as the legendary jazz saxophonist, with many other members of the original cast, as well as Opera Philadelphia’s Music Director Corrado Rovaris and the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, all of whom performed the work’s world premiere to five sold-out audiences last June. Described as a “major achievement from a company that is committed to creating a fresh work every year” (Denver Post), the 90-minute chamber opera was celebrated by Philadelphia audiences for its many powerful performances, including soprano Angela Brown’s as Parker’s mother and baritone Will Liverman’s as jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie. The New York premiere marks something of a homecoming for Swiss-American composer Daniel Schnyder and librettist Bridgette Wimberly, both of whom live in Harlem themselves. Click here to see a video excerpt from Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere production of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD.

About the Apollo Theater

The legendary Apollo Theater – the soul of American culture – plays a vital role in cultivating emerging talents and launching legends. Since its founding, the Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, the city of New York, and the world.

With music at its core, the Apollo’s programming extends to dance, theater, performance art, spoken word initiatives, and more. This includes the October 2014 premiere and 2015 international tour of the dance celebration project James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, the annual Africa Now! Festival, Apollo Club Harlem, and the upcoming New York premiere of the opera Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD. The Apollo is a presenting organization that also produces festivals, large-scale dance, and music works organized around a set of core initiatives: Apollo Music Signature Programs – Amateur Night, Salon Series, Apollo Music Café; Legacy Series – work that celebrates and extends the Apollo’s legacy through a contemporary lens; Global Festivals including the Women of the World (WOW) Festival and Breakin’ Convention; international and U.S.-based artist presentations focused on a specific theme; and Special Projects, multidisciplinary work with partner organizations.

Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo Theater has served as a testing ground for new artists working across a variety of art forms, and has ushered in the emergence of many new musical genres – including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, and hip-hop. Among the countless legendary performers who launched their careers at the Apollo are D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Machine Gun Kelly, Miri Ben-Ari, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder; and the Apollo’s forward-looking artistic vision continues to build on this legacy.

The Apollo Theater is a not-for-profit organization and currently in the midst of fundraising for its 21st Century Apollo Campaign, created to extend the institution’s role in fostering artistic innovation and in building appreciation of American culture around the world. For more information, visit

About Opera Philadelphia
Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “one of the leading instigators of new work in the country” by Opera News, Opera Philadelphia is the only American finalist for the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company. The company is charting a bold new path to September 2017, when Opera Philadelphia will open its 2017-18 season with an immersive, 12-day festival featuring seven operatic happenings in six venues throughout the city. The first festival, “O17,” will feature three world premieres, plus the exclusive East Coast appearance of Barrie Kosky’s groundbreaking production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and a recital by superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. Opera Philadelphia will continue to present a spring season each year, including three additional productions in February, March, and April, making it the only U.S. opera company producing an annual opera season that begins with a dynamic festival. For more information, visit

To download high-resolution photos, click here.



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Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD (New York premiere)

Music by Daniel Schnyder
Libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly
A co-production of the Apollo Theater and Opera Philadelphia

The Apollo Theater, Harlem, NY
Fri, April 1, 2016 at 8pm
Sun, April 3, 2016 at 3pm

Tickets for Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD may be purchased through Ticketmaster, at (800) 745-3000 and, or the Apollo Theater Box Office, at (212) 531-5305 and

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD is sponsored by Merrill Lynch.

Leadership support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional support from OPERA America: The Opera Fund, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Pat and Al Zollar, and many other generous donors.

The Apollo’s 2015-2016 season is made possible by leadership support from Citi, Coca-Cola, Troy and Keisha Dixon, Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, Robert K. Kraft, The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, Merrill Lynch, The Parsons Family Foundation, the Ronald O. Perelman Family Foundation, JoAnn Price, Earl W. and Amanda Stafford, Time Warner Inc., the Reginald Van Lee Fund for New Works, the Apollo Board of Directors, and many other generous donors.

Media Contacts

Opera Philadelphia: Frank Luzi, [email protected], (215) 893-5902

21C Media Group: Glenn Petry, [email protected], (212) 625-2038

Apollo Theater: Nina Flowers, [email protected], (212) 531-5334

Apollo Theater: Cynthia Tate, [email protected], (212) 531-5340

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© 21C Media Group, March 2016

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