Self-Guided Walking Tours Highlight History Of Black Composers, Musicians Around NYC

CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez tells us about a new program designed to help discover more about the city’s musical legacy.

Video Transcript

- As we celebrate-- celebrate Black History Month, we continue to learn more about the richness of the history and culture hidden here in New York.

- CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez tells us about a new program designed to help discover more about the city's musical legacy.

KENNETH OVERTON: (SINGING) To swing my arms wide.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: A captivating baritone on brownstone steps in the middle of Harlem.

KENNETH OVERTON: (SINGING) To whirl and to die.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Even more impressive, soloist Kenneth Overton is singing lyrics by the famed Harlem Renaissance winter and poet Langston Hughes on the very site of his former home.

KENNETH OVERTON: I get to sing the music of some of my literary heroes as well as some of my musical heroes, and to combine that with the New York City and Black history, it's just a win-win.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: It's all part of a project by on-site opera called The Road We Came. It's a free app designed to showcase composers, musicians, and places that highlight the rich Black history of New York City through a series of self-guided musical walking tours. We started ours at Langston Hughes House on East 127th street, where we had the added treat of meeting the current owner, who took us inside.

- I love the way you kept the molding there.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: And Overton just couldn't resist.

KENNETH OVERTON: (SINGING) Pride and suffering in the song.

I hope that the audience connects on a very visceral way. They understand and hear these words in a way that might be different from just reading them in a book.

- Eric K. Washington is an historian who narrates the tours.

- If you're interested in discovering aspects of the Black experience in New York that you're not aware of, great music by Black composers, it's just a wonderful way to tour the city either on foot, or from your armchair, or both.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: And that's what we set out to do.

- Download the app to their phone, and then when they get to the location they open the tour, and just like the regular GPS.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Eric Einhorn of Onsite Opera showed us how it works.

- The tour will take you from spot to spot. It'll show you the route you have to take. And then when you get to the locations, another window will pop up with information about that particular spot.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Another uptown stop was the Schomburg, for a deeper dive into the music of the Harlem Renaissance by composers like Leslie Adams, and Margaret Bonds, one of the first Black composers to gain recognition in the US.

The three musical walking tours will take people through Harlem midtown and here in lower Manhattan, where the historical journey begins at the African Burial Ground National Monument.

The 2 and 1/2 mile Midtown tour has stops at Carnegie Hall and then up to Lincoln Center, where the Metropolitan Opera will open their season with the first work presented by black composer Terence Blanchard. It also reintroduces this area as San Juan Hill, once renowned for dance halls and jazz clubs. The tour featuring music by artists like ragtime great Eubie Blake.

- People who participate will walk away with a little bit more insight into black contributions in New York. They will meet a host of other people that they didn't know.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Music and history enriching them every step of the way. Hazel Sanchez, CBS 2 News.

- As Black History Month continues, you will see a series of stories here on CBS 2 news. You can also find more reports on our website, CBSNewYork.com.