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(Posted 6:30 p.m., Feb. 25)
Spiritual concert a fitting celebration of Black History Month
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

Ottawa gospel singer Kathy Grant Mahon brings the 'Hold Fast to Dreams' concert to a close at the Orleans Theatre on Sunday night. The concert was organized by the Harmonia Choir of Ottawa to celebrate Black History Month. Fred Sherwin/Photo


An audience of about 60 people gathered at the Orleans Theatre on Saturday night for an evening of music in celebration of Black History Month. The lucky few got to enjoy a truky spell-binding concert that included a breathtaking performance by award winning gospel songstress Kathy Grant Mahon.

The concert was organized by Harmonia Choir of Ottawa director Kurt Ala-Kantti and featured performances by the Hamonia Choir, the World Voices Choir from Brookfield High School and the Cross Town Youth Chorus.

The theme for the evening was "Hold Fast To Dreams" taken from the opening line of the poem Dreams written by Langston Hughes.

The Harmonia Choir and the World Voices Choir joined forces for the opening number, Freedom is Coming, which is a traditional South African freedom song. Harmonia then performed a set of spiritual songs including a lively spiritual number with a calypso feel written by Newfoundland songwriter Stephen Hadley.

The Harmonia Choir was followed on stage by the World Voices Drummers who used a variety of instruments to replicate the songs of the rain forest including a giant rain stick in a piece appropriately called Rain.

Next up was the east end's own Cross Town Youth Chorus which performed a medley of South African freedom songs accompanied by drummer Jeannine Hunter.

The first half of the concert was brought to a close by the combined voices of the Cross Town Youth Chorus and Harmonia performing Hope for Resolution.

After a brief intermission it was time for the World Voices Choir to take the stage. The high school chorus recently released a CD entitled "Ubuntu" which features a variety of South African freedom songs written in the years leading up to the end of apartheid.

For their opening number the choir performed a song from Ghana entitled Wonfa Nyem which is traditionally sung at festivals and funerals. The song featured a solo performance by World Voices member John Iyaniwura

For their next number the choir took on a traditional piece from northern Brazil entitled Maracatu. With its heavy samba beat created by a large percussion section, the song reminded me of Rio de Janeiro during Carnival.

After performing two traditional South African freedom songs including Freedom is in Your Hand which was easily one of the highlights of the evening, the World Vision Choir was joined on stage by the Harmonia Choir for a wonderful version of the pan-African anthem N'kosi Sikelel'i Africa made famous during the Graceland concert organized by Paul Simon in the late '80s.

The best however was saved for last as Grant Mahon came out of the wings to take her place at the front of the stage to sing Sound Over All Waters by Canadian composer Paul Halley which was absolutely mesmerizing.

The concert was then brought to a close with the combined choirs singing Halley's Freedom Trilogy, the third part of which featured Mahon singing the lines of Amazing Grace, backed by a chorus written in the style of a traditional South African freedom song. It was the perfect ending to a truly remarkable evening of music.

The concert was the third in a series of four performances being put on this year by the Harmonia Choir in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The fourth and final concert in the series, entitled "A Common Wealth of Song", is planned for May 26.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 


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