By Susan Green
Black Alumni Reunion Weekend is not only bringing together alumni stretching as far back as 1964, but it's also bringing together two formidable talents - Raymond Tymas-Jones, tenor, and Edward Payne, baritone.
Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University, is an acclaimed performer whose "opulent voice delivers the pathos of the great American spiritual with sensitivity and beauty." And Payne, an Episcopal priest and music director and conductor of the Wright State University Opera Theatre, are presenting an evening of classical songs and Negro spirituals on Friday, May 21, at 8 p.m. in the School of Music recital hall. The concert is free and open to the public.
A year in the making, this is the first time Tymas-Jones and Payne have collaborated. Payne was an Ohio University School of Music faculty member for 14 years.
"Bill Jones, a good friend and former colleague of mine, introduced me to Raymond," Payne says. "And we became good friends after that introduction."
Jones, a former registrar at Ohio University, says Payne had quite a following during his tenure at the University. "Ed was a star," Jones says. "He was a one-man opera program - he'd performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and had an international reputation - people would come to football games just to hear Ed sing the National Anthem.
"I first heard Raymond sing during an alumni awards banquet and immediately became a fan and started thinking, 'Wouldn't it be beautiful for them to do something together?'"
As the idea took shape, Jones approached the performers and they enthusiastically agreed to collaborate.
"The opportunity to work with Ed was thrilling," Tymas-Jones says. "We worked together to create a rich program inspired by music of the standard repertory."
Payne agrees. "First we decided the character of the program and then looked at each other's favorite composers," he says. "Later, we talked about the entertainment value we wanted the concert to have."
Works by Theodore Dubois, George Frideric Handel, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Georges Bizet's popular tenor-baritone duet, "Au fond du temple saint" from the Opera Les Pecheurs des Perles (The Pearl Fishers) along with Negro spirituals, complete the program.
If rehearsals are indicators of success, this promises to be a fabulous performance and the first of many from this talented and charismatic duo.
"Ed and I are already thinking about taking this on the road," Tymas-Jones says.
To listen to an interview with Raymond Tymas-Jones from "Live from Studio B," please visit: http://woub.org/radio/studiob.html.
Susan Green is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.