The World House Choir is back in rehearsals. We are inside, distanced, masked and vaccinated and we have some exciting events planned over the next several months.
The choir is currently preparing to lead singing for the annual outside holiday tree lighting ceremony in Yellow Springs. We are learning Seven Principles, a song that celebrates the values of African-American holiday, Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work, and beauty. The composer, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon writes:
- Kwanzaa came at a time when Black Americans were engaged in multiple and major efforts to reconstruct broken ties and heal wounds suffered from having to struggle for survival in a society organized against our development and prosperity.
We will also lead the assembled crowd in traditional carols as well as songs celebrating Hanukkah and the power of the sun.
We are also rehearsing a recently composed piece, Say Her Name, by Alysia Lee. The composer connects her family’s celebration of Kwanzaa with a call to action. She was moved by the libation ceremony (ritual pouring of liquids in memory of deceased loved ones) that starts every day of the seven-day holiday. Lee says, “names are powerful,” and she quotes Kimberle Crenshaw in her composer’s notes:
- If you say the name, you’re prompted to learn the story, and if you know the story, then you have a broader sense of all the ways Black bodies are made vulnerable to police violence.
On February 26, the World House Choir will be part of a tribute concert recognizing the choral legacy of Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell. Eight choirs from around the region will assemble. Each choir will perform a short set of pieces drawn from her rich choral repertoire of over 140 compositions. Dr. Barnwell will be in attendance. Watch this space for more details, but mark your calendars for Saturday, February 26 at 3:30pm. The concert will be held in Cincinnati at the House of Joy.
I am thrilled to be singing works by Black women artists who are my elders and mentors. The youthful Alysia Lee also inspires me as she gathers deep wisdom from all around her and she energizes the movement for justice with the music to carry our struggle on: Say Their Names.
In late April, the World House Choir will team up with members of the Returning Artists Guild (RAG). RAG consists of visual and Hip Hop artists who were formally incarcerated. Many of the RAG members sang with my choirs when they were inside Ohio prisons. RAG will join the World House Choir in a rousing and thought-provoking concert. The event will also include an exhibition of works by RAG visual artists
Again, watch this space for more details as the time approaches.