Opera student Denisha Ballew, who has performed in Europe and across the eastern United States, will give a recital Saturday evening at Madison Central, her high school alma mater.

Sponsored by the Richmond Celilian Club, the performance is scheduled for 7:30 in the school’s new theater. Admission is $10.

The 2008 University of Kentucky graduate, who was the youngest singer selected for the American Spiritual Ensemble, will begin graduate studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she was awarded an assistantship.

She will be joined at the recital by two fellow UK students, Kamesha Peake, a graduate student from Louisville, and Reginal Smith Jr., a sophomore from Atlanta.

“In the first half of the program, we’ll each sing a classical set and some art songs in French, Spanish and English,” Ballew said.

Ballew’s classical set will include “Alleuja” from the Mozart oratorio, “Exsultate Jubilate.” Her art-song set will include an early Debussy selection.

The recital’s second half will be mostly spirituals, including two contemporary compositions by Moses Hagan and Jacqueline Hairston.

Peake will join Ballew for a duet of the spiritual, “O What a Beautiful City.”

Pianist Nan McSwain, who frequently accompanies for UK performances, will play for the recital.

In August of 2006, Ballew toured Spain with the American Spiritual Ensemble. Her European trip was made possible in part by donations made after a free concert at Richmond’s First Presbyterian Church. She also has toured the East Coast and Midwest with the ensemble.

Ballew had a busy senior year at UK. She sang in the chorus of the UK Opera Theater’s production of “La Traviata,” performed several solos for the theater’s Grand Night for Singing and Lexington’s first annual Diversity Bowles Banquet at Dunbar High School.

In February, she sang the in the duet, “There’ll be Glory in the Morning,” for UK’s “Our Lincoln” program. “Glory in the Morning” is an excerpt from “River of Time,” an opera being composed by UK’s Dr. Joseph Baber.

“I hope to sing the part of Eliza when UK performs ‘River of Times’ world premier,” Ballew said.

“It’s a very challenging piece with lots of leaps and jumps from B flat to C,” she said.

“When I worked with Dr. Baber, I told him I was very nervous about singing it.”

Baber told her, “I wrote this piece for a voice like yours,” Ballew said, “a soprano who voice can float high notes easily, and make those leaps and jumps.”

Ballew also has studied at UK faculty members Dr. Angelique Clay and Dr. Everett McCorvey, who directs the university’s opera program and the American Spiritual Ensemble.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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