By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Friday night at the Kimmel Center, Kathleen Battle, one of opera’s superstars headlines a concert honoring Philadelphia’s pivotal role in the Underground Railroad.

With rare access to her rehearsal, we learned how Kathleen Battle shapes the music and how the music shapes her.

Kathleen Battle’s high notes just seem to linger in the air.

Even in rehearsal, for the Evening of Spirituals Friday night, October 24th, you can hear Battle’s heart in her work.

“There wasn’t a spiritual that I’ve ever heard that I didn’t want to make my own. I may not have sung it. but it lives within me.”

Battle arrived in Philadelphia early this week, to meet with jazz pianist, Cyrus Chestnut, harpist, Rita Printup and to work with the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale.

Spirituals and readings from the writings of some of the nation’s greatest abolitionists create a narrative tracing African-American freedom.

“The first song I sing is — Lord How Come Me Here. I Wish I Never Was Born,’ said Battle. “ That’s a powerful statement to make. It’s a gripping spiritual.”

Philadelphia is tied to the Underground Railroad – helping some 40,000 slaves find freedom. In the concert, the spirituals tell the story.

“When you are in one spiritual, you inhabit that space,” said Battle. “If you string a lot of them together it can be heavy on your heart.”

At rehearsal, Battle was helping the Chorale reach for that “spirited” sound. It’s an art.

Kathleen Battle brings her voice and her spirit for the Underground Railroad Evening of Spirituals, Friday night at the Kimmel Center.

For tickets, go to www.theartsinphilly.org.

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