Madisen Hallberg was being filmed singing the national anthem on campus for her university’s virtual graduation last month when she heard the beautiful voice of a stranger suddenly start singing along.
Emmanuel Henreid heard Hallberg’s song through the trees while he was walking on the leafy campus of Portland State University in Oregon when the classically-trained opera singer decided to join in for an impromptu duet.
“As an African American male walking the park blocks, I didn’t see a white individual or a woman,” Henreid said. “I just saw what felt like music.
“I passed and I was like you know what let’s just do it, just be brave and ask if she wants to sing together.”
Seeing a Black opera singer and a white student come together for a stunning rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” amid the protests against police brutality and racial injustice following George Floyd’s death has been an uplifting moment for many during an emotional time across the country.
“When you collaborate with someone and sing with someone, the most important thing you can do is listen to them,” Hallberg told KGW. “And listen to what they’re doing with their voice, and adapt to that and shape your tone and your pitch around them so it’s harmonious.”
Henreid is also a classically-trained dancer, actor and pianist who currently performs for the Portland Opera Company and several other professional choirs and opera companies.
The duet is the latest powerful moment of song to emerge in the wake of the protests, including the viral song “I Just Want to Live” by 12-year-old gospel singer Keedron Bryant. Many peaceful protests have also featured demonstrators taking a break to sing and dance in harmony.
Henreid and Hallberg are just grateful their moment together has been able to touch people around the world.
“When we let our voices pour out, there’s no stopping us,” Henreid said.