The Chamber Singers of Keene (CSK) and the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs (GMYC) are
proud to present an extraordinary community choral event on the 55th anniversary of The
Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama. On Friday, April 27 at 7pm, the two Keene choirs of GMYC, Elm City Singers and Keene Youth Choir, will join their adult counterparts to present The Children’s March, a powerful musical depiction of civil rights activism. The concert will be held in the United Church of Christ, located at the head of the Square in downtown Keene, New Hampshire, and marks the first collaboration between GMYC and CSK. The evening holds special significance for the Chamber Singers. The group will host composer, Andrew Bleckner in the New England premiere of his work, featuring gospel, blues and dramatic themes representing the historic music sung by 4000 African American children as they were defiantly arrested to protest the inequality of the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South.
The performance is narrated by Dottie Morris, Vice-President of Diversity at Keene State
College; conducted jointly by Matthew Leese, CSK and Esther Rhoades, GMYC; and joined by Walt Sayre, pianist and Michael Day, percussionist.
This is also the farewell concert for CSK musical director, Matthew Leese, who took the helm at CSK in 2014. Leese finds synchronicity in this work within the context of national events.
"When I found this piece and started planning with Esther, I had no idea this would be my final concert with Chamber Singers, but somehow this feels like a very fitting way to leave the baton for the incoming director. Working on this stirring piece this year has been uncanny in its timing with current politics and with me gaining US Citizenship."
The Children’s March, composed in 2013 by Bleckner with libretto by Charlotte Blake Alston, is a compelling work that combines original text with words from legal documents, infused with stirring spirituals. This important piece is a new, major American composition that tells the story of a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement; a historic action that called upon children to protest the inequality of segregation. The song list includes “There is a Balm in Gilead,” “Lift Every Voice,” “Run, Mary, Run!,” “Woke Up This Mornin’ With Freedom on My Mind.”
In the first week of May 1963, thousands of children demonstrated in the streets of Birmingham Alabama, protesting the city’s notorious practices of racial inequality. The events in Birmingham were not the beginning nor the end of racial discrimination in the United States, but they signified an important crossroads – one where the youth of the city proved they had a powerful voice to enact change, and where the politicians and law enforcement officials proved they would do anything to silence that voice. Met with a violent response as the whole world watched, the courage of these children, some as young as 4 years old, culminated in pivotal civil rights legislation proposed by President John F. Kennedy, making segregation illegal.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was harshly criticized in 1963 for allowing children to be the catalyst for change. However, the children saw themselves as the creators of their own freedom. Those brave children said, “This is our future and we want to help shape it.”
The performance on April 27 serves an important call to action for youth and adults alike, an inspirational moment that will live on in the hearts of everyone who attends. As a gift to the community, and acknowledging the significant cultural contributions of Leese, tickets will not be sold and admission is by donation only. The inspiring concert will last approximately 75 minutes. Doors open at 6:30pm with unreserved seating.
For more information about CSK, call Matthew Leese at 603.465.8602 or visit www.chambersingerskeene.org
For more information about GMYC, call Esther Rhoades at 603.499.3505 or visit www.grandmonadnockyouthchoirs.org
Andrew Bleckner: http://www.andrewbleckner.com
Charlotte Blake Alston: http://www.charlotteblakealston.com
The Children’s Crusade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT-QkNkMZjk
Cecilia Ensemble Czech Send-Off Concert, “There is Peace,” April 15 in Dublin NH (Peterborough, NH) The Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs (GMYC) began in 1997 as the Peterborough Children’s Choir, founded by Maria Belva and David Vernier. The high school-age
choir, known as the Cecilia Ensemble, has traveled abroad with Belva every two years since 2003. In 2018, the ensemble will travel on their 8 th European Tour. Previously, Belva took the group to Northern Italy in 2003; Germany and the Czech Republic in 2005; Spain in 2007, Sicily in 2010; Austria and Hungary in 2012; southern Italy in 2014; and France in 2016. This year they travel to the Czech Republic, where they will perform for six days in various locations ending in Prague.
According to Belva, “These tours change lives. Our young people come to see themselves as part of a world culture. They get a much bigger picture of who they are and who they can become. We also give our audiences a different picture of who we are as American citizens. We become ambassadors representing our town, our state, and our country.”
This tour is very special because they will be performing a choral piece that was composed in Terezin by amateur musician, Karel Vrba, called Nezapomeň, who was transported to Auschwitz shortly after the piece was completed. “On this tour, we will be visiting the Terezin Concentration Camp and performing Nezapomeň where it was composed 74 years ago. We will present the Terezin Museum
with a recording of the song for their archives.”
The Cecilia Ensemble, directed by Maria Belva and accompanied by David Vernier, will perform on Sunday afternoon, April 15 at 4:00 pm, at the Dublin Community Church on Main Street in Dublin, NH. This is the concert that the ensemble will perform on their
European Concert Tour of the Czech Republic. Titled “There is Peace,” the hour-long choral program will include several Spirituals, Shaker Songs, and part-songs by contemporary American composers, as well as sacred a cappella pieces, and arrangements by the choir’s accompanist, David Vernier. A performance of a very special kind will be included in the concert: the Czech song, Nezapomeň
(translation: do not forget).
The concert on the 15th is free and open to the public. A free-will donation will help defray the cost of the trip for the young women of the ensemble. GMYC is the performance-based Choral music education program for young singers (Grades 2-12) in the Monadnock Region. We value choral music as essential to growing peace in our community and do not discriminate. Visit the website at
www.grandmonadnockyouthchoirs.org, or call 603-313- 0052 for more information.
Artistic Director, Esther Rhoades was awarded one of eleven 2018 Trendsetter awards.