The voices of enslaved people over the age of 150 are not silent.
The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society’s Singing Freedom Concert — January 15th and 16th at the Kimmel Center — featuring star singer/fiddler Rhiannon Giddens (among others) will showcase the recently discovered people fleeing slavery. It was born from the given descriptions and detailed confidential information. Ads that promised rewards to those who return them.
‘Amazing’ was the response of 25-year-old composer Mason Bynes, who wrote a choral piece three dialogues For the Singing Freedom Concert, she read the testimonies of women her age, escaped the authorities, and lived by their wisdom. “It was emotionally difficult to accept the gravity and depth.”
The more than 30,000 ads collected in the Cornell University database Freedom on the Move are often descriptive enough to give the enslaved person a lively face, followed by finance. Remuneration — $100 in 1839, about $3,100 today — for their return. Written by slaves, this advertisement describes what the fleeing freedom people wore, how they spoke and how they walked.
“He has been branded on one side of his face by his former master and it is customary for him to tie a small handkerchief under his chin to hide the branding,” one advertisement reads. “He used to work in the swamps of Lebanon.”
Bob “has a mustache on his upper lip. His left leg is slightly shorter than his right leg, which makes him stagger when he walks. He has straight hair.” Others are identified by their scars. It’s on my back.
There is also a modest Lucy, according to the 1864 Philadelphia Gazette. She is said to be petite and slender, wearing a white dress with green shoes and hiding in the wilderness of Bucks County. But hadn’t slavery been abolished in Pennsylvania by then? Is this evidence of a loophole in the enslavement of people in other states?
No one knows who captured how many fugitives. The name is sketchy. The locations are often small towns incorporated into modern condominium projects. Artists accessing Freedom on the Move’s database began to talk about these wide-ranging glimpses of slavery in the United States. Art song organizations Sparks and Wiry Cries were key sources of contact, one leading to the other, resulting in two concert series.
The January 15th program kicked off at Giddens and included a cycle of 11 newly written songs, “songs in flight” by Sean E. Okpebrough, featuring lead singers Karen Slack, Reginald Mobley and Will Lieberman. play. The extensive text, partly by noted poet Chichi Ella Jazi, muses on some of the stories behind the text and acknowledges the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
“I take this song as a storyteller, but as an African-American, I feel, ‘Can I get over this?'” said Slack, a Philadelphia soprano who has sung at the Metropolitan Opera. I’m talking Slack says it looks forward to a time when race doesn’t matter. [the ads] Old wounds open again. ”
On the program on January 16, the Pine Forge Academy Honorary Choir will perform Bynes three dialogues This includes texts by Langston Hughes, among others.
What comes out seems to be cheating. “It’s important to tell the truth about our struggles and resilience. But as black composers and performers, there has to be joy.” The point is to make the listener think deeply.
“Great art can be paradoxical,” writes PCMS Artistic Director Miles Cohen in the program book.
“How should the audience feel? That’s always a question when making a new piece with a new story,” says Slack. “I want people to understand that slavery is about enslaving humans. And I want people to understand the beauty of who these people were.”
The PCMS Singing Freedom concert will take place on January 15th at 3:00pm and January 16th at 7:30pm at Kimmel’s Perelman Theater, Broad and Spruce Streets. Tickets are $30 for each concert, but are officially sold out. 215-569-8080 or firstname.lastname@example.org Join the waiting list.