DPO, local African-American church choirs partner on ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice’

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and African-American church choirs from across the Dayton area will celebrate the 10th anniversary of DPO’s Stained Glass Series in an uplifting concert titled “Lift Ev’ry Voice” Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED
The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and African-American church choirs from across the Dayton area will celebrate the 10th anniversary of DPO’s Stained Glass Series in an uplifting concert titled “Lift Ev’ry Voice” Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Schuster Center. CONTRIBUTED

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s artistically and culturally fruitful Stained Glass Community Engagement Concert Series celebrates its 10th anniversary Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Schuster Center with the uplifting “Lift Ev’ry Voice.”

Emphasizing a commitment to community outreach through the universal prism of music, the Stained Glass Series connects the DPO with African-American church choirs and congregations throughout the Dayton area. In particular, the concert series is called the Norma Ross Memorial Community Concerts in honor of the late Mrs. Norma Ross, a devoted, warm-hearted advocate for music and minority youth.

“Diverse-driven programming in the arts is important because so much about the arts influences and/or is a direct result of the society in which we live,” said Norma’s daughter Jenell R. Ross, President of Bob Ross Auto Group. “Today our society is more diverse than ever, and I believe it is important this reality be reflected in arts programming.

“The Stained Glass Series allows the Dayton Philharmonic to join with local African-American church choirs in a manner that celebrates the best each has to offer. This collaborative, diverse-driven arts program helps us to focus on commonalities in such a way there is no ‘you or me.’ In the end, the music is only about ‘us,’ together. The longevity and appeal of the Stained Glass Series proves there is an eager audience for diverse arts programming in the Dayton community. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra is a local treasure many citizens have access to enjoy each season, but to bring this treasure out into the community where some people may not have had the pleasure of attending a philharmonic concert is powerful.”

Under the leadership of DPO Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman, next Sunday’s program features church choirs from Calvary Missionary Baptist Church (Jacqueline Hall-Moore, music director), First Baptist Church (Bill Caldwell, music director), Inspiration Church (Shalanna Bell, music director), Omega Baptist Church (Tommy McGuffy, Jr., music director), St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church (Robert Stockton, music director), Tabernacle Baptist Church (Kathy Pullen, music director), and Trinity Presbyterian Church (Terry Grimes, music director).

“The Stained Glass Series has two elements,” Gittleman noted. “The DPO performs one-hour concerts of classical music in area churches, with each concert culminating in a performance by the host church’s choir accompanied by the orchestra. Also, groups from the churches attend a future DPO performance at the Schuster Center. The (series) is about bridge-building and establishing relationships. It’s about bringing people together through music. The idea of mixing classical, spiritual, and gospel repertoire might strike people as a little odd, but it really isn’t. The seemingly disparate musical styles actually share a common ‘musical DNA’ in hymns. Over the years I’ve created many arrangements of gospel tunes for the orchestra to perform with Stained Glass church choirs, and it’s always fun to find ways of bringing the two styles together.”

“The Stained Glass Series’ outreach exposes classical music to the DPO’s diverse Dayton community,” echoed Grimes. “These performances reconnect and also expose adults and youth to musical styles outside their personal popular idioms. Add to DPO’s classical performance repertoire the rich musical heritage of African-American classical composers, Negro and African-American spirituals, and contemporary gospel music, the music performed at the concerts makes all music accessible to those who want to hear it.”

Concert selections include Hale Smith’s “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony in addition to choral works such as “Hallelujah, You’re Worthy to Be Praised,” “More than Enough,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Even Me,” and “Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land.” Dayton Opera Chorus mezzo-soprano Grecia Vaughn will perform a solo of the moving hymn “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

As he anticipates spearheading another inspirational program, Gittleman remains proud of the series upholding its mission year after year. He’s also pleased with the positive audience reception.

“(An) amazing spirit and enthusiasm fills the churches when we play,” he said. “And (a) parallel spirit and enthusiasm fills the Schuster Center when church members come hear us perform.”

“The combination of the Dayton Philharmonic with local church based choirs combines the familiar with what is perhaps less familiar, and we have seen year after year the audiences respond with enthusiasm,” Ross added. “I believe the Philharmonic and the church groups walk away knowing they are valued and embraced. I know mom is beaming with pride to see this all come together on the stage of the Schuster. This is truly what she had envisioned many years ago. She always wanted to gain more exposure of the cultural arts into the minority community, and this is just one of the many initiatives that has proven to be continuously successful.”


What: "Lift Ev'ry Voice"

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: Sunday, Jan. 22; 3 p.m.

Cost: $10

Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or visit www.daytonperformingarts.org/philharmonic-performance/lift-evry-voice

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