February 2017

by Joseph E. Morgan

On January 12, 2017, Fisk University hosted an event “that shared community voices in song, spoken word, instruments, and visual arts,” celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those who stood “upon these shoulders.” It was an extraordinary evening.

The concert opened with a communal performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice.” The first solo, “Over My Head,” featured local soprano Tyler Samuel, and Rollo Dilworth’s “Hold Fast to Dreams” was sung by Margaret Campbelle-Holman’s exquisitely prepared MET Singers. Gwendolyn Brown followed with a stirring “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” Jessie Montgomery’s “12 Moods” brought us into the 20th century with his fresh setting of Langston Hughes’s poetry.

Contralto Gwendolyn Brown sings “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” arranged by Dave Ragland; Photograph by Brianna Cooper and Willie Curtis

At midpoint, the evening turned to oral history as Freedom Rider Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton told of his experiences at Nashville lunch counters and Parchman Prison, but most of all he spoke, sang, and inspired human perseverance in the face of oppression.

Next the Fisk Jubilee Singers performed three spirituals, and Dave Ragland’s Diaspora Ensemble performed two of his works, “Zion’s Walls” and “Mother to Son” featuring Adrianna Clemons. After Allen Christian’s strong performance of “Ol’ Man River,” Intersection and the MET Singers returned for John W. Work III’s “Trilogy of Three Spirituals.” The grand finale presented “Freedom Is Coming” featuring the MET’s charismatic bass Garrel Lawrence and inspiring spoken word performances by Cedric Dent Jr. and Franklin Willis.

In all, the evening reflected the history, strength, and diversity of Nashville—as expected from an Intersection collaboration. With so many moving parts, including a temperamental sound system, one couldn’t expect perfection. However, when measured by the numerous standing ovations and moments of hushed emotionalism, the concert was simply extraordinary—I can’t wait for next year.

Learn more about Intersection at www.intersectionmusic.org.

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