She Never Lost a Passenger: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad 1996, New Chamber Orchestration 2015, 40′

"The children's opera "She Never Lost a Passenger" gives its audiences a graphic, compact introduction to one of American's most heroic characters, Harriet Tubman....The show certainly fascinated its audience.... Susan Kander's music is in a simple lyrical style that lets the singers emphasize the words. And every so often, Kander shifts into a folk tune, such as as "Let My People Go" or "Gift to be Simple." ...Kander's work, even the more difficult passages, stays accessible...."  

--The Syracuse Post-Standard

 

piano solo or chamber ensemble: oboe (eng. hn.), clar. (bass cl.), horn, perc (2), pno, 2 vln, vc.

African-American soprano or Mezzo; African-American tenor; white soprano or mezzo; white baritone; Chorus/Children’s Chorus;

Commissioned by Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Available from Subito Music.

Subsequent Performances:

Shreveport Opera
Chicago Opera Theater 
Opera Memphis
Syracuse Opera Company (x2)
Central City Opera
Baltimore Lyric Opera (x2)
Lyric Opera of Kansas City (x6)
Opera Kansas (x2)
Amarillo Opera

William Grant Still, founder of the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee, receives a letter in code from Abolitionist Quaker Thomas Garrett, telling him news of "Moses" and her human cargo moving north towards his safe house. Still sings of Harriet Tubman, known as Moses, the extraordinarily courageous woman who "never lost a passenger" along the underground railroad. Miles south, as night falls, Harriet returns to her latest group of exhausted, frightened fugitive slaves and recounts her adventures attempting to scout a safe passage to the next stopping place. She and John, another slave, sing the spiritual "God Down Moses" to raise the spirits of their fellow travelers. Later, in a safe house owned by Thomas and Sarah Garrett, food, shelter and a Quaker lullaby ("Simple Gifts") are provided. Moving on the next night, ("Follow the Drinking Gourd", some slaves lose heart and want to return south. Harriet threatens to kill anyone who turns back, since one slave spilling secrets about the route could cost the lives of many. As they move on, she tells them about Mr. Still and his "great book" in which he writes their names and stories, and which became, in fact, the first published account of the Underground Railroad. As they move on through the dark woods Mr. Still sings again of Tubman and her mythic courage. The opera ends as Harriet and the fugitives trudge toward freedom.