On Sunday, February 25 at 10 a.m., a special guest concert will be presented in lieu of the regular worship service at the First Congregational Church of Rockport. “The Gift of Song: Voices of Black America” embodies the motto “anchored in faith, navigating new horizons,” which the members of the church adopted to symbolize their growth and exploration as a congregation during the spring 2018 sabbatical of Reverend Derek van Gulden.<.p>
This concert is a powerful and poignant celebration of our nation’s proud African American heritage in words and music by male and female poets and composers from the American Civil War to the present. Performers are soprano Kynesha Patterson and tenor Antanas Meilus, rising stars on the greater Boston scene, and narrator Samuel Martinborough, director of Mssng Lnks, a non-profit organization addressing under-representation of singers-of-color in the greater Boston area.
The program was conceived and coordinated by pianist Beverly Soll, lecturer at Salem State University. Beverly supported our church this past fall by presenting her well-received recital “To the Sea” with soprano Jennifer Sgroe to benefit the Old Sloop Steeple Fund.
Prayers, spoken poems, and congregational hymns are woven among the songs as the program’s stories-within-stories unfold in a tapestry exploring various aspects of African American history. The first group on the concert, “Out of Slavery,” is made up of the earliest spirituals, which show the hope, faith and determination of an enslaved and then newly freed people. “The Harlem Renaissance” and “The Romantics” explore the humor and resilience of Black Americans during the first half of the 20th Century.
As the concert continues, “The Struggle” paints powerful pictures of the Civil Rights era through stark music and “in your face” poetry, tempered with powerful words of hope from Dr. Martin Luther King. The final group, “Gift of Song,” addresses the hope of children and of a better future. The final song is set to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s lovely text, “Because I had loved so deeply, because I had loved so long, God gave, in His great compassion, the gift of song.”