The world premiere of "26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man," a new song cycle by B.E. Boykin.

26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man, a new song cycle by B.E. Boykin, set to the poetry of Raymond Patterson, and commissioned by the Merola Opera Program, will have its world premiere on May 31 at the Oakland School for the Arts and on June 2 at the Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre. Baritone Sidney Outlaw (Merola '10) and pianist Warren Jones, longtime collaborators, will perform the new work.

Outlaw and Jones will premiere the song cycle on May 31, 2023, for students at the Oakland School of the Arts, with students in graphic design providing projected images to accompany the songs. Following the performance, the artists and composer will discuss the creative process with students at the school.

On June 2, 2023, Outlaw and Jones will perform 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man again at the Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. In addition to the premiere, the recital will include works by Gabriel Fauré, Johannes Brahms, and William Grant Still. The performance will conclude with Deep Rivers by Mohammed Fairouz, a work for Wind Quintet and Baritone voice set to the poetry of Langston Hughes, the Black Civil War Soldier's Chant, and the traditional American spiritual Deep River with a new melody by Fairouz. Deep Rivers premiered in 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. Members of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra will collaborate with Outlaw for the Fairouz work. The full recital, which will begin at 7:00 pm, runs approximately 90 minutes with intermission. Tickets will be offered at a discounted price to community members and free to students.

Before the June 2 recital, Boykin, Outlaw, and Jones will meet with students from the Bayview Opera House youth enrichment programs for an interactive discussion of the poetry of 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and how the artists worked together in creating and premiering the song cycle.

When they began discussing a song cycle, both Boykin and Outlaw were drawn to Raymond Patterson's poetry collection 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and the many different ways the poems talk about the Black male experience. Patterson, an American poet, opera librettist, and educator, was a professor at City University of New York and founded the Langston Hughes Festival. Boykin has set his poetry in 7 distinct sections, Journey, Mystical Prowess, Sacrifice, Magic of Love, Harvest, Legacy, and Connection. Outlaw calls the work "a modern-day Winterreise," the song cycle by Franz Schubert. Boykin, he says, "took elements of Western classical music styles, dipped them in Black culture, and merged those two styles."

The world premiere of this powerful new work is part of Merola’s commitment to promote works by women and people of color and to collaborate with diverse communities in the Bay Area. The commission and performances are generously supported by the Ces Butner Horizon Beverage Charitable Fund and Michael Colbruno. Musicians sponsored by the Port of Oakland Foundation. COMMUNITY ACCESS tickets sponsored by TogtherSF.

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For further information, please contact Jean Kellogg at (415) 936-2321 or

B.E. Boykin -

Sidney Outlaw -

Warren Jones -