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It changed me.
A small paragraph in last Thursday's Freeman caught my eye. Mollie Stone, an expert in South African music, would join choirs from Carroll, Waukesha's North, South and West High Schools and Muskego High for a free concert the next night at 7:00. All I knew about the performance was most of the choirs I already appreciate so much were performing together... and it was FREE!
I'd probably miss a half hour of so because of my work hours and the previous plans I made following work. Jumping at the chance to leave work an hour early Friday, I actually ended up getting to Carroll a half hour early. Passed the time by visiting new projects in the creative spaces of the Rowe Art Gallery adjacent to the Shattuck Music Center.
I'll admit when I read the sign on the door at Shattuck: Please join guest artist Mollie Stone... for a public presentation and concert, the culmination of their day-long workshop in folkloric vocal harmony with a special focus on the choral music of South Africa. "Let this not be a concert just about African music."
It was so much more.
There's no way to describe what I witnessed Friday, which partly explains why I've waited so long to blog. One or two hundred of the best high school and college choristers in Waukesha getting together to learn songs in the oral tradition, in one day, in a different language, and perform it flawlessly... with dance moves! Good thing the concert was free, because you can't put a price on priceless.
I will never think the same way about African music. What at first was, "I hope there's not going be a lot of African music" became by the end of the evening, "I want more. Don't stop!"
Besides the sheer enjoyment of seeing all these students performing something different so well, it was also a phenomenal educational experience as well. This could have been better attended if performed during class hours for all students, but hopefully each school's choir takes what they learned back with them and shares.
It wasn't just the students that impressed me. Mollie Stone and Dr. Kristina Boerger, Carroll's choir director, are top notch teachers as are the high schools' choir directors. Each of the schools gave their own performance of an ethnic song they'd been practicing, and I especially enjoyed Muskego's Puerto Rican song sung in Spanish. Their soloist is perfection.
"Ms. Stone gave instruction in South African languages, dance movements, and the historical and social context in which the songs are performed." According to the flier on the door. "She uses the music as a lens through which singers may learn about South African history, politics, culture, religion, and languages, as well as helping both performers and audiences to understand the power of using music to create political and social change in our world." It was all of that.
I wish I had a video of the performance to share, but absent that I found a couple on YouTube that come close, containing songs we heard performed Friday, even one with a class taught by Mollie.