Director Banghart reflects on her recent experience at the ACDA Conference
The world has changed since I returned from the American Choral Directors Conference in Rochester, New York on March 8th. I am so
thankful for the inspiration I received during those 4 days. The memories of the 22 brilliant performances I heard will help sustain me through this new normal of social distancing.
I traveled with colleague Judy DuBose who is the artistic director of the Frederick Children’s Choir and a friend of DCC. I hadn’t been to
Rochester for many years. Having grown up in upstate NY, I was curious to visit the city. The venues, especially the Hochstein Performance Hall and the Kodak Theater were beautiful with fabulous acoustics. We stayed at the Hyatt where most of the interest sessions were held. The hotel staff couldn’t have been more pleasant and helpful. The weather was cold with 5 inches of snow blanketing the city one night but it didn’t slow down the participants.
It is hard to pick a favorite performance but three do stand out. The theme of the conference was “Open Ears……Open Hearts” with music dealing with equity and social justice. One of the unforgettable concerts was that entitled “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit” featuring
the American Spiritual Ensemble under the direction of Founder Everett McCorvey. It was formed in 1995 with its mission to keep the American Negro Spiritual alive. Its members are soloists in their own right singing around the world in opera houses and concert halls alike. They present dynamic renditions of classic spirituals, jazz, Broadway hits and operatic arias and choruses. My personal highlights were the duet This Little Light of Mine featuring twin brothers, a tenor and counter-tenor. This piece brought the packed house to their feet and folks would not stop clapping. Another memorable treatment of a familiar piece was “Circle of Life” from the Lion King. I highly
suggest you visit their website and youtube channel for spine-tingling listening.
Another highlight was the concert presented by the EO Smith Chamber Singers, a high school from Storrs, Connecticut. Their program was entitled Embrace the Light and the Darkness with this Rumi quotation, “If Everything around you seems dark, look again-You may be the light. Life’s waters flow from darkness. Search the darkness, don’t run from it.” No doubt, I had no idea how these words would become even more relevant. Their selections were grouped by Joy, Beauty, Humanity, Regret, Desperation and Awakening. Repertoire ranged from F. J. Haydn to Shawn Kirchner. The 32-voiced choir gave a moving performance and connected with its audience in a mature and honest way.
And I must mention “We Who Believe in Freedom CANNOT REST” with the Voices 21C directed by Andre de Quadros. This group was formed in 2016 in the French Alps and little did they know that it would become such a strong, committed and vibrant ensemble with compassion and creativity at the core of its mission. The mini-opera was divided into three sections: I. On Feminine Identity; 2. Forced Migration and Refuge Crises; 3. Race and Violence. Its special guest was Halim Flowers who was incarcerated for 22 years and released on March 21, 2019 due to DNA evidence proving his innocence. While in prison, a documentary was filmed “Thug Life in DC” which won an Emmy Award. Andre de Quadros is instrumental is establishing the prison choir model across the country. I highly suggest you visit their website voices21c.org and read more about them.
I could go on and on but suffice it to say that I learned a lot and am eternally grateful to the Deer Creek Chorale organization for
supporting professional development and for embracing the importance of the ACDA and Chorus America organizations.
Rutgers Men’s Glee Club