A black man with short hair and a trimmed beard smiles and stands at an angle wearing a whit tuxedo jacket with a black button down shirt.

Get to know Kenneth Overton

Baritone Soloist, An African American Requiem

Kenneth Overton joins Choral Arts for the East Coast premiere of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem after performing in the World Premiere on May 7, 2022 in Portland, OR.

This will be Kenneth’s official Kennedy Center debut!

Choral Arts: Can you tell us about your current professional roles?

Kenneth Overton: My current roles include, Porgy in Porgy and Bess, probably the role I’ve done that most at 105 staged performances to date. Amonasro in Verd’s Aida, the King of Ethiopia, a role I’ve done only once, but look forward to doing many more times. The role of Stephen Kumalo in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars is at the moment my favorite role. Based on the novel Cry The Beloved Country. Finally, a new role I am adding next season is Mr. Macguire, from Tobias Picker’s very first opera Emmeline.

Choral Arts: Tell us a little bit about your role in Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem.

Kenneth Overton: It is always a privilege to premiere a work. It’s a chance to put the first stamp on it, but to be asked by the composer is truly the biggest honor for me. The piece is special to me because it’s written for specific people, my people. I get to give voice to those whose voices were taken away from us way too soon. For me, it’s a way to say thank you to them for their life’s work and sacrifice. The parts that resonate with me the most are the Offertory, and the text and melody of “There’s a man goin’ round taking names.”

Choral Arts: Have you performed with any of the other soloists on this program before?

Kenneth Overton: I have had the pleasure to sing and work with all of the other soloists, Jacqueline and I have toured with The American Spiritual Ensemble and most recently were at The Metropolitan Opera together in Porgy and Bess.

Norman Shankle and I have most recently performed at Strathmore with the National Philharmonic for the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s Petite Requiem A Knee on the Neck, which was dedicated to the life of George Floyd.

Karmesha and I have known each other for many years and recently shared in the world premiere of An African American Requiem in Portland.

This will be my official Kennedy Center Debut.

A Black man wearing a leather fedora, necklace, and sleveless orange ensemble stands with hands on hips and an batik printed fabric over his shoulder in front of a woven panel.

Choral Arts: What music is on your personal playlist?

Kenneth Overton: At any given time I am listening to Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Whitney Houston, Jay Z, Beyonce, Heather Headley, Lil Nas X, Jazmine Sullivan, Fantasia, Jessye Norman, and many others…..

Choral Arts: What upcoming projects are you most excited about?

Kenneth Overton: The next exciting projects I’m looking forward to are recording my new album/CD of Spirituals and singing in Nathaniel Dett’s Oratorio The Ordering of Moses.

Keep up with Kenneth’s upcoming performances at https://www.kennethoverton.com/.