Les Délices’ award-winning webseries and podcast SalonEra continues its fourth season with Songs for Social Justice, premiering December 11th. This episode probes themes of community, faith, identity, and belonging through the personal stories of and performances by tenor Haitham Haidar and countertenor Michael Walker. In a first for SalonEra, this episode was filmed in front of a live studio audience at the Heights Theater in the fall of 2023. Featuring heartfelt conversation and beautiful performances of intimate songs from the 17th century, African American spirituals, and traditional Lebanese melodies, this episode is a wide-ranging, poignant exploration of art and individual expression.
Songs for Social Justice will premiere on December 11th on the Les Délices YouTube Channel, at salonera.org, and on all major podcast platforms. Each episode of SalonEra streams free with a suggested donation of $15/episode. Video episodes are available from their premiere date through June 30, 2024, with podcast versions of the same episodes available at salonera.org and wherever podcasts are heard.
Haitham Haidar and Michael Walker are brilliant emerging artists working in North America’s early music scene. Both singers frequently perform with Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble, an ensemble that prioritizes musical excellence and celebrates racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. Les Délices recently collaborated with KVE for its concert series opener, The Pow’r of Musick.
In conversation with LD’s Artistic Director and SE host Debra Nagy, Haitham and Michael revealed personal histories and how their identities shape their artistic priorities. “It was a real privilege to learn more from Michael and Haitham about how their artistry is shaped and informed by their cultural backgrounds. For instance, as an African-American gay man, Michael talks about occupying spaces where he can be made to feel like an outsider and the kinship he feels with songs of protest from across the ages – from William Byrd’s Why do I use this paper, pen, and ink to the spiritual He never said a mumberlin’ word. As a Lebanese-Palestinian emigré who settled in Canada as a young adult, Haitham explores themes of feeling welcome and missing home while recognizing that the flip-side of grief is love. For Haitham, Monteverdi’s Nigra sum sed formosa contains affirming messages about being seen and loved though you may look or feel different, while singing the Arabic songs of Fairuz connects him (and his listeners) to the sights, sounds, smells, and daily rituals of his homeland in the Middle East.”
In performances featuring musicians Brian Kay (oud and lute), Rebecca Reed (cello), and Debra Nagy (recorder), Haitham and Michael share music by early music stalwarts like John Dowland and Claudio Monteverdi along with powerful performances of spirituals and popular Arabic songs made famous by Lebanese icon Fairuz.
Renaissance lute songs, African American Spirituals, and traditional Lebanese melodies become vehicles for storytelling as Michael Walker (countertenor) and Haitham Haidar (tenor) explore themes of identity and representation, struggle and resilience, and community and belonging.
SalonEra’s 4th season will include seven new video episodes highlighting a diverse range of repertoire. In addition, The SalonEra podcast will also release exclusive episodes about select programming from Les Délices’ 2023-24 15th Anniversary Season, featuring musical insights, historical context, and audio highlights.
Countertenor Michael Walker II is celebrated both as a brilliant soloist and versatile chamber musician. Praised for his “luminous tone, weighted with pathos,” Michael has performed throughout the world as a recitalist, a soloist with orchestra, and a chamber ensemble member. As an early music specialist, Michael finds pleasure in exploring literature from the medieval, renaissance, and baroque eras. He has been heard as a soloist with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra (Bach’s St. John’s Passion), Kokomo Symphony Orchestra (Handel’s Messiah), Marquette Choral Society (Bach’s Magnificat), and Incantare (Schütz, Magnificat). As a new works and contemporary music enthusiast, Michael was the featured soloist in the U.S. premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Triptych for wind band and the countertenor soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with IU Summer Philharmonic Orchestra. As a passionate advocate for celebrating inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) within the classical arts, Michael in collaboration with the historical instrumental ensemble, Alchymy Viols, developed a program of Negro Spirituals arranged for voice and viols da gambas title Deep River: American Spirituals My Mother Taught Me. Also, Michael is a member of the Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble; a group of dynamic professional singers that promote IDEA while presenting vocal music with artistic excellence. Michael holds a Master of Music in Early Music Performance Practices from the Historical Performance Institute at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Additionally, Michael currently serves as the Major Gifts Officer for the Washington Bach Consort and is Sphinx LEADer Fellow with the Sphinx Organization.