I first came across Harolyn Blackwell when preparing a recital focused on poetry by Langston Hughes. Ricky Ian Gordon wrote the song cycle Genius Child for her with the last song being ‘Joy’ as a representation of who she was. Ms. Blackwell has tremendous effervescent, sparkling, stage presence to go along with a magical voice.
She has been a massive influence on my career as I’ve grown into a multi-passionate space. The more I dig into her career, the more fascinated I become. She has maintained a crossover career, teaching, recording, etc. She always shares gratitude to the Black sopranos who paved the way for her to make her own mark. I find that she is often overshadowed by some people like Kathleen Battle in discussions of Black singers, but she is absolutely worth a listen and a read through.
I encourage you to explore her website, and be sure to listen to her sing ‘Joy’ by Ricky Ian Gordon and ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess, my absolute favorite recordings!