Battle Enraptures Audience at Florida A & M

Opera legend Kathleen Battle entertained audience members in Lee Hall Auditorium Friday with a variety of spirituals, oldies and classical pieces.

Wearing a black gown adorned with a magenta floor-length garment around her shoulders, Battle stood and opened by singing the traditional “Roll, Jordon, Roll” and merged into “Plenty Good Room,” followed by “Give Me Jesus.”

“Her voice is magical,” said 25-year-old Benjamin Evans, a professional MBA graduate student from Philadelphia, Penn. “I literally closed my eyes as the harmonic melodies flowed from her mouth. It is truly an honor to be graced by this international icon.”

Battle, the five-time Grammy award winner, concluded part one of the concert by singing the well-known spiritual “Wade in the Water,” followed by an instrumental solo for part two by Battle’s pianist, Cyrus Chestnut, who received a standing ovation.

“This concert for me is a landmark concert because it’s the first one that Cyrus and I performed together alone,” said Battle during the concert.

One of the highlights of the performance was when she performed “Were You There?” arranged by Jacqueline Hairston.

Battle’s high notes resonated across the auditorium, with audience members echoing “amen” at the emotion on her face and in her voice.

“They are very talented,” said Dante Bland, 20, a junior industrial engineering student from Virginia. “This is a good experience because I’ve never been to an opera before. I would like to see more students come out to these types of events; it’s a great experience.”

By the end of the night, Battle covered traditional hits as well as songs by Thomas Dorsey, Charles A. Tinley, George Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington. Battle sung “Come Sunday” by Ellington and her pianist played his solo rendition of the “Negro National Anthem” to end the night.

Desi Person, from Atlanta, said she is a fan of Battle’s and was expecting a great concert.

“I traveled all the way from Atlanta to see her perform,” said Person.

After the close, the crowd gave Battle a standing ovation and demanded an encore, Battle and Chestnut came back to the stage to do a few more songs.

“This is definitely a signature moment in the life of Florida A&M University to have a legend on our campus,” said President Ammons. “I think when you look at this overall Lyceum Series this year, this one has to be among the best in the history of lyceum at Florida A&M.”