Reverend Tall Tree's Blues Opera

musicals and operas · reverend tall tree and the blackstrap brothers · Ages 14+ · United States of America

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Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Oratorio is a tale told in twenty-one songs, following the journey of a fictional 1930s street preacher in the American deep south. A story of love, sorrow, earthy humor, and finally, redemption, we accompany the Reverend as he plies his trade (leading street revival meetings) in the dusty small towns of the lower Mississippi valley.

One night the journey to the next town proves too long and he finds he must take shelter in the nearest place of comfort, a whorehouse on the banks of the Mississippi. The Reverend has no money, but gifted with a golden voice and a smooth, winning manner, he’s confident he can talk his way in.

He makes a deal with the Madame to pay for his keep that night by playing a show of earthly songs for the girls and their customers. While performing that evening, the Reverend falls in love with Scarlett, one of the working girls. He woos her over the following days and weds her.

They set off together, but soon the Reverend’s new bride discovers she doesn’t like living on the road. It’s a little too like being homeless. She begins to stray.

After a revival meeting in a little town just north of the delta, Scarlett disappears. The Reverend follows after her and discovers her with a lover. In the ensuing argument she pulls the gun he has given her, but before she can fire, he pulls his gun as well and kills Scarlett and her man.

Instantly desperately sorry, the Reverend then goes on the run, living in the shadows, hiding from the law. He finally ends up in a hotel room in Memphis, exhausted, unable to run any further. He’s arrested there.

We next meet him leading a revival meeting on death row where he asks his fellow inmates to help him face his final day with courage and dignity. They all join in singing a rollicking spiritual as he’s led to the gallows.

The Reverend hangs and wakes up in the fiery provinces of the underworld. But even here, he isn’t without hope. Perhaps Scarlett is there and they can be reunited?

But Scarlett isn’t there—the Devil tells him the Lord took her to heaven. Now the Reverend realizes he cannot stay in hell for another hour, much less an eternity, and he must figure a way out.

He decides to attempt to talk his way out of hell by making the Devil a wager. He bets the devil that the audience will sing the next song, as a congregation, as one, passionately and with purpose. If they do the Reverend gets another chance at life on earth. If they don’t, his soul belongs to the devil forever.

The audience sings him out of hell.

Late one night, many years later, an old man now, and still on the road, he calls out to his love at a crossroads on the edge of town, swearing he will live righteously so to ensure he can be reunited with her at the end of his days.

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