p.m., Feb. 25)
Spiritual concert a fitting celebration of Black History
By Fred Sherwin
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.
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.
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.
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.
was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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