Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD At The Apollo Theater In Harlem

March 1, 2016

charlie parker miles davisIn anticipation of the New York premiere of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, a co-production between the Apollo Theater and Opera Philadelphia, the Apollo has announced today that it will offer related cultural events for the public at the legendary Theater as well as other community institutions. The premiere marks the first time opera will be seen on the Apollo Theater stage and is a continuation of the Theater’s robust education and community offerings. Activities will include: a free panel discussion, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, on Parker’s music and legacy, featuring jazz scholar and historian Prof. Robert O’Meally of Columbia University; Terrance McKnight, a host on New York City music station WQXR; poet and playwright Bridgette Wimberly, the librettist behind Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD and the host of WBGO-FM’s Weekend Jazz After Hours Shelia E. Anderson, also the host of the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Harlem (March 15); a Charlie Parker Harlem Tour led by Harlem historian John Reddick (March 26); the Apollo Walk of Fame induction of the influential saxophonist with presentations by Parker contemporary, Jimmy Heath and more (March 30) and a special dress rehearsal of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD for community and education groups. This series of events has been underwritten by OPERA America: The Opera Fund.

“We are so excited to bring YARDBIRD to the Apollo Theater and, leading up to the New York premiere of the show, we hope that these events will provide context and a fuller picture of the creative genius that was Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and a better understanding of the YARDBIRD opera. Before people walk through the doors to see the show, we want them to understand the essence of ‘Bird.’  From the Walk of Fame induction to the symposium at the Schomburg Center, each event is designed to celebrate and explore Parker’s brilliance, his legacy in the jazz community and his relationship with the Apollo Theater,” said Mikki Shepard, the Apollo Theater’s Executive Producer. “Also, through these programs, the Apollo Theater celebrates the importance of its community – artists, audiences and students. As a cornerstone for the Harlem community, we always strive to find ways to bring them into dialogue through our artistic programming, and this celebration of Parker is in line with our mission.”

Please see below for the full schedule and description of events

Schomburg Center Symposium

Tuesday, March 15, 2016; 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture515 Malcolm X Blvd, Harlem, NY 10037

Robert O’Meally, Zora Neale Hurston professor of English and Comparative Literature, and founder of the Center for Jazz Studies, moderates this panel discussion on the life and legacy of Charlie Parker. Panelists scheduled to participate include:

Terrance McKnight, the WQXR-FM weekday evening host. He also hosts WQXR’s All Ears with Terrance McKnight, a Saturday evening program about musical discovery, which was honored with an ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award, in 2010.

Bridgette Wimberly, a librettist, an award-winning poet and author of eight plays who has been commissioned and produced by several theaters Off-Broadway and across the country, including Opera Philadelphia (Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD).

Sheila E. Anderson, host of WBGO-FM’s Weekend Jazz After Hours, Columbia University Community Scholar and host of the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Harlem.

The evening will also feature a performance by T.K. Blue, composer of Latin Bird, a Latin Jazz-themed Charlie Parker tribute CD. Mr. Blue has performed with many jazz artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, Regina Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paquito D’Rivera and Jimmy Scott.

This event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is strongly suggested. For registration information visit

This event takes place at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. between 135th and 136th Streets. 

Charlie Parker Harlem Tour

Saturday, March 26, 2016; 12 pm – 2 pm

Led by Harlem historian, lecturer and architect, John Reddick, this historic tour will visit Harlem landmarks associated with the legendary musician’s life and career – from Minton’s Playhouse, where Parker performed jam sessions early in his career to Abyssinian Baptist Church where his funeral was held. Other stops will include: the Cecil Hotel, Mt. Morris Park, Dewey Square Hotel, Dan Wall’s Chili House, Clark Monroe’s Uptown House, the Savoy Ballroom and Small’s Paradise.

At the height of his talent and popularity, “Bird” as Parker came be known, would perform at Harlem’s most distinguished venues including Small’s Paradise, the Savoy Ballroom and the world famous Apollo Theater. Harlem also served briefly as Parker’s home base where he resided at the Dewey Square Hotel on 117th Street and later, upon his death, Harlem would host his funeral at Abyssinian Baptist Church with a service officiated by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Each year since 1993 the community has celebrated his talent, artistry and Harlem association with the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Marcus Garvey Park.

This event is free. Limited space. Pre-registration is strongly suggested. For registration information visit

Apollo Walk of Fame Induction

Wednesday, March 30, 2016; 5 pm – 6:45 pm

Preceding the New York premiere of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, the Apollo Theater will celebrate its jazz legacy by inducting the legendary and influential jazz saxophonist, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, into the Apollo Walk of Fame. The ceremony in honor of Parker will include presentations and remarks by Apollo President & CEO, Jonelle Procope; renowned instrumentalist, composer, arranger and educator Jimmy Heath, who played with Charlie Parker; Opera Philadelphia President and General Director, David B. Devan and YARDBIRD star Lawrence Brownlee. Additionally, the Apollo Theater and Opera Philadelphia leadership will make a major announcement.

The Apollo’s Walk of Fame honors legendary performers who have helped shape the American music landscape and built the Apollo into one of the world’s most enduring cultural institutions. The plaques will be installed underneath the Apollo’s marquee on 125th street, alongside plaques for numerous Apollo legends including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, and Patti Labelle, among others.

Parker had a rich history with the Apollo and performed at the Theater many times, beginning in 1943 with the Earl Hines Orchestra—which included Dizzy Gillespie. During his many engagements at the Apollo, Parker further developed his bebop style and also experimented with classical and other musical forms.

The Apollo Theater led the way in introducing a broader audience to bebop when, in 1943, Theater owner Frank Schiffman booked the experimental bebop band The Earl Hines Orchestra, including Little Benny Harris, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. Parker and Gillespie would perform their new style of music at the Apollo as well as at other jazz clubs and after-hours venues, ushering in a new era that resulted in the transformation of big band swing to bebop.  Parker was widely considered one of the architects of the bebop sound and conducted bold musical experiments during his engagements at the Apollo. Parker realized a lifelong dream in 1949 to record with string instruments, and in 1950, the first live performances of his cutting edge Charlie Parker with Strings­—a recording which bridged the gap between jazz and classical music—was presented at the Apollo.

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD Open Dress Rehearsal

Thursday, March 31, 2016; 2 pm – 4 pm

A special dress rehearsal of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD for community and education groups.

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD (Performances)

Friday, April 1, 2016; 8 pm

Sunday, April 3, 2016; 3 pm

Featuring: Lawrence Brownlee, Angela Brown, Will Liverman, Tamara Mumford, Rachel Sterrenberg, Chrystal E. Williams, Elena Perroniand the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra

The Apollo Theater and Opera Philadelphia partner to present Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD in its New York premiere. The co-production will mark the first time an opera will be performed on the Apollo Theater stage, and the first time Opera Philadelphia will play New York.

Set in the famed Birdland jazz club on March 12, 1955, the day Charlie Parker died, the opera invites audiences directly into the mind and heart of the great saxophonist as he composes his final masterpiece, and revisits the inspirations and women who fueled his creative genius.  The New York premiere reunites Lawrence Brownlee, the “energetic, bright-voiced tenor” (The New York Times) in the lead role as the legendary jazz saxophonist—a role crafted around the effortless, improvisational style that has made him one of opera’s most sought-after tenors—with much of the original cast alongside Maestro Corrado Rovaris and the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, who performed the work’s world premiere to five sold-out audiences in June. Soprano Angela Brown appears as his mother, Addie Parker, and baritone Will Liverman debuts as jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie . With music by: Daniel Schnyder; Libretto by: Bridgette A. Wimberly; Director: Ron Daniels; Set Designer: Riccardo Hernandez; Costume Designer: Emily Rebholz; Lighting Designer: Scott Zielinski.

Tickets for Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD are $30 – $125. Tickets will be available at The Apollo Theater Box Office: (212) 531-5305, 253 West 125 thStreet, and Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000,

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