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Songs of Freedom: African American Spirituals and Songs from the New World

The Schiller Boston Community Chorus, based in Quincy, MA, joined by guests from New York, Detroit, and San Francisco, just completed a weekend of performances in concerts in Providence, RI and Quincy, MA featuring songs from the New World and classical African American Spirituals. 

Friday: Songs of Freedom

Baritone Frank Mathis.

On Friday, June 14, 2019, the SI Boston Community Chorus teamed up with Stages of Freedom, who hosted the event, for an evening of history through music. Stages of Freedom is an organization dedicated to providing young African-Americans access to swimming programs, cultural programming, and to educate inner-city youth by providing access to museums and live performance. Historians and Stages of Freedom founders, Robb Dimmick and Ray Rickman planned this concert at Manning Chapel (Brown University) specifically because of the role the Brown family played as the second largest slave-owner family in Rhode Island’s history.

By the time the concert began, on Friday, June 14th at 5:30pm, there was a sold-out audience of over 200 people.

Mr. Rickman opened the event by challenging the audience to not think of this event as “entertainment, but to improve your soul and spirit.” This, preceded by a stirring rendition of “I’ve been buked” by Hall Johnson, performed by the chorus a capella, set the tone for the entire event.

The concert featured the Schiller Boston Community chorus and soloists singing Spirituals and was carefully and dramatically orchestrated to portray the horrors of the Rhode Island slave trade, through readings taken from The Notorious Triangle by Jay Coughtry.  The unique and necessary participation of the chorus dramatic performances of five Spirituals and a Mozart choral piece and also of soprano, Michelle Erin performance of Hall Johnson’s “Give me Jesus,” baritone, Frank Mathis, “Goin’ Home” and excerpts from Roland Hayes “Life of Christ,” and soprano, Annicia Smith’s moving rendition of “Deep River” was punctuated by the remarks of invited guest, Northeast coordinator of the Schiller Institute, Dennis Speed.  All pieces were skillfully and beautifully accompanied by pianist, My-Hoa Steger.  At the conclusion of the 90-minute concert, the chorus led the audience in singing “Lift every voice and sing,” and led the audience outside the beautiful chapel to a receiving line.

Schiller Institute Boston Community Chorus and friends.

Schiller Institute Boston Community Chorus and friends.

Many in the audience had never heard Spirituals sung in such an honest and dramatic way.  Some people were visibly shocked when Dennis Speed said in his speech, that African-American Spirituals are Classical music.  While this event was intended to shock people and create discomfort in facing the history of slavery, the role of the uplifting and never-enraged Spirituals played the crucial role in carrying out the mission of Friedrich Schiller and the Schiller Institute; it provoked the audience to be better people and to respond in an impassioned way.  There is tremendous potential coming out of this concert, including a professional recording which will be sent out to thousands of people and future collaboration.

Saturday: Songs from the New World 

On Saturday, June 15th, the Schiller Boston Chorus hosted a concert entitled “Songs of a New World,” to educate people on the collaboration between Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák and African-American baritone and composer, Harry Burleigh. This history is necessary to understand if Americans are going to make the break from geopolitics and divisiveness of the old paradigm and move into a new paradigm of win-win cooperation between the best of all cultures.  This concert program was well composed with many solo and choral African-American Spirituals, Lieder by Brahms, and some lesser-known but beautiful and well-received songs by, Antonín Dvořák including two Moravian duets, a song in Czech, and the well-loved Songs my Mother Taught Me, sung by soprano, Michelle Fuchs and accompanied by My-Hoa Steger. Also, a very special rendition of the Chinese folk song, “Jasmine Flower (Moli-hua)” sung by Donna Liao, and accompanied by treble voices and piano, brought the beauty of Chinese culture to a largely American audience.  At certain points in the program, quotes by Dvořák, Burleigh, and Frederick Douglass, were read, to help the audience gain further insight into the beginnings of this American Renaissance and also why it was deliberately derailed into Jazz and the Roaring 20s culture, etc.  For more on this history, see The African-American Spiritual and the Resurrection of Classical Art:  Not Force, But Beauty, Will Change America.

annicia

Soprano Annicia Smith singing “Deep River.”

There were a few incredible responses from the audience which characterize a more general hunger for beautiful culture that our choruses are finding around the country, particularly right now. This audience, made up entirely of the local community, including family and friends of chorus members, local business owners, and some children, gained their concentration and settled down during the opening piece, the beautiful prayer-like “Laudate Dominum” from Mozart’s Solemn Vespers. 

At the conclusion of the concert, there were many responses by audience members and chorus members alike.  Many people could not believe that we are a community chorus and that we do not hold auditions.  This led to many good discussions about the important role of the Verdi tuning and bel canto vocal training to train amateur voices.  One chorus member noticed that during one particular dramatically soft and beautiful choral phrase in a spiritual, many members of the audience simultaneously sat back in their seats and closed their eyes, as if to be relieved by the music. Many expressed how important it is to have this beauty here in this community and how every single arrangement was beautiful. 

Another important note was the affect of the historical excerpts and quotes, as a few members of the audience wanted to discuss the role of slavery in the United States and more of the history of Burleigh and Dvorak.  Following the concert, there was a wonderful food reception attended by audience and performers alike. 

This full weekend of two beautiful concerts reinforced our firm commitment to bringing high-level culture to all peoples and that if we can avoid the dangers of war, the United States can be ready to join the new paradigm.

Jen Pearl, Conductor, Schiller Boston Community Chorus  Follow the Boston chorus on Facebook.

 


SONGS OF A NEW WORLD – Concert June 15th 2019, Quincy MA

A contribution to the struggle for the Inalienable rights of all human beings. To Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. For the United States to overcome our cultural crisis, we must create a new unified culture, founded on the most beautiful ideas and discoveries, contributed by the American experience to the treasure chest of human culture.

Please, join our Community Chorus in celebrating and investigating through music on June 15, 3 PM in Quincy!

WP concert June 15 image

Antonin Dvorak, who was brought to American for the purpose of creating an American classical music culture, by Jeanette Thurber, the founder of the National Conservatory, recognized that that creative surge among American composers and the people in general could be ignited by the beauty and profound ideas found in the American folk music, known today as the spirituals.

Said Harry T. Burleigh:

“It was Dvořák who taught me that the spirituals were meant not only for the colored people, but for people of all races, and every creed.  In New York, I was with Dr. Dvořák almost constantly.  He loved to hear me sing the old plantation melodies.  His humility and religious feeling – his great love for common people of all lands – enabled him to sense the pure gold of plantation song… he understood the message ever manifest:  that the eventual deliverance from all that hinders and oppresses the soul will come, and man – every man – will be free.”

Although the experiment was attacked and shut down to a certain degree, the hypothesis is valid and still reverberates. The fragments exist for the artist, and the chorus, to pick them up and out of them weld together, in one harmonious whole, a nation, through the development of a uniquely American, noble school of classical music.

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Jen at SchillerBostonChorus@gmail.com


Songs of the New Silk Road Concert in Quincy, Massachusetts

On Sunday, December 9th, 2018, the Schiller Boston Community Chorus hosted a classical music concert at Christ Church in Quincy, MA, which featured music from Russia, China, the United States, Europe and more.  The intention of this concert was to bring together the cultures that are involved in, or should be involved in, the Belt and Road Initiative, and to demonstrate the universality of beauty and the principle of Classical composition.

Ana Maria Ugarte and Brian Landry.

Ana Maria Ugarte and Brian Landry.

The musical program was a beautiful mix of pieces and was introduced by Director of the Boston Schiller Community Chorus, Jen Pearl, who spoke of the urgent need for a Classical Renaissance, challenging people to think big, referencing the Chang e-4 launch (China’s latest mission to land a rover on the far side of the Moon).

The concert was opened by operatic tenor Brian Landry, who drew people in with Messiah’s “Comfort ye” and “Every Valley.”  The program included Brian and his wife, contralto, Ana Maria Ugarte, performing the duet “Gesu Bambino”and solos including “Deep River,” “Oh Holy Night,” and “Ave Maria”. The chorus and New Paradigm octet performed several Spirituals, Schumann’s Bankelsanger Willie, and Dem Dunkeln Schoss der heilge Erde, by Brahms. Other soloists included Michelle Erin Fuchs from the Schiller NYC Chorus performing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “I wonder as I wander,” the Appalachian spiritual by John Jacob Niles and two beautiful Russian folk songs.  Also a performance by a Jinghu player and a special treat, a Chinese soprano who performed two beautiful Chinese songs in her very light and high trained bel canto voice.

Among the 65 or so attendees were old friends, new friends just met at various Tree Lighting ceremonies and Christmas markets, members and leaders of the church congregations and networks with whom we have collaborated in various Chinese organizations, who expressed interest in our work on the New Silk Road and their strong wish for Americans to get on board with this optimistic and future oriented perspective. One attendee, upon realizing that some of the chorus member’s young children were able to sit through the entire concert and enjoy it, offered to bring their grandchildren to the next concert.

Donna Liao sings Chinese folk songs with bel canto technique.

Donna Liao sings Chinese folk songs with bel canto technique.

The mother of one of our members said our concert was much better and more high quality than a recent professional group she saw perform Faure’s Requiem (which she hated).  One very new chorus member brought five family members. The Chinese Jinghu player expressed disbelieve in how in-tune our chorus was, and how difficult it is for the opera group he performs with to stay in tune.  One woman in the audience said “you all are a real asset to this community.”  A Chinese father, who generally supports Xi Jinping, but also has been a bit skeptical, brought his young daughter to the concert and was moved by how passionately some of our chorus members conveyed the ideas of the music. He has been at a few events, read up on the Schiller Institute, and after the concert expressed renewed optimism saying the Belt and Road Initiative is having a very positive effect on the world.

Jinghu player.

Dr. Qingen Ke playing the Jinghu.

A number of people were curious about the New Silk Road and one woman collected extra concert programs to send to her son in South Carolina, who’s a minister.  A group of three old friends who worked with the LaRouche movement in the 1990s and resurfaced for this event, expressed what many in the audience and chorus was sensing, that in these difficult times events like these are essential to uplift the minds and spirits of our people.

The reverberations are still coming in from this concert.   Our chorus here is committed to grow and spread the rays of great classical ideas throughout our community. The potential for growth is massive, as there is a real hunger for profundity out there and a desire to connect our very diverse population, with a large Asian component, through that creative potential which is universally human.

 

For more information about the Boston Schiller Institute Chorus, contact schillerbostonchorus@gmail.com.

 


Sylvia Olden Lee – A Musical Tribute To A Beautiful Soul.

The Schiller Boston Chorus hosted a centennial celebration concert honoring master musician and teacher, Sylvia Olden Lee.  We also marked the birthdays of patriots President’s John F. Kennedy (100th) and John Quincy Adams (250th) in this concert of African-American Spirituals, Verdi, Mozart, solo, ensemble, choral music and more held on October 15th in Dorchester, Mass, at the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Thank you to the Boston Neighborhood Network for filming the concert. All performances were at the Verdi tuning of C=256.

The program included selections from Life of Christ by Roland Hayes, Robert Schumann’s entire Dichterliebe and operatic arias performed by local artists, Brian and Ana Landry and Christina DeVaughn among others.

Program PDF

Find out more about the Schiller Boston Chorus!


The Schiller Institute Presents: A Tribute to John F. Kennedy — W.A. MOZART · REQUIEM

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Invitation Flyer

Download Flyer (PDF)


On January 19, 1964, Boston Honored Her Fallen Son John Fitzgerald Kennedy With A Performance of Mozart’s Requiem at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

Join Us, Exactly 50 Years Later, In A Commemorative Performance.

SUNDAY, JAN. 19, 2014
3:00 PM

CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY CROSS
1400 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118

Admission is free. First come, first seated.

“From the past, man obtains the insights, wisdom and hope to face with confidence the uncertainties of the future.”

John F. Kennedy’s remarks to the centennial of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1963, three days before his death

It is fitting that 50 years later we commemorate the spirit of cultural and economic progress that John F. Kennedy’s leadership represented for America and the world. With this spirit, President Kennedy confronted and sought to overcome the terrifying prospects of global war, poverty, and human degradation that faced our nation and the world during his time. In the intervening years, these existential problems have come to threaten mankind in even greater magnitude, but the national mind that had joyfully embraced the challenge to conquer the Moon, has been supplanted by a spirit that belittles the sacredness of the human individual and the power of human creativity.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem is a most fitting tribute to John F. Kennedy, as Mozart’s work communicates the same optimism and belief in man’s infinite progress to which President Kennedy dedicated his life. The spark of optimism which marked the Kennedy era, though dimmed, is still present among us because it is embedded in the very fabric of our nation from its founding.

Let us honor the memory of John Kennedy by not only reflecting on what was, and what could have been, but on how our culture has changed, and how we must now recommit ourselves to its renewal.

The concert will be performed by the Schiller Institute Chorus along with an orchestra and soloists assembled for the occasion by the Schiller Institute. The performance will be at the natural “Verdi tuning” of A=432 Hz.

The Schiller Institute was founded in 1984 on the initiative of Helga Zepp-LaRouche, wife of the American statesman and physical economist Lyndon LaRouche, for the purpose of reviving the paradigm of Classical culture and reasserting the right of all humanity to material, moral, and intellectual progress. It is named after Friedrich Schiller, the “Poet of Freedom” whose ”Ode to Joy” is immortalized by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony.