Celebrating black composers in choral music

by Molly Kohler Pei, Channel Islands Choral Association

Channel Islands Choral Association (CICA) presents a Virtual Choral Experience, streaming On Demand from June 4th – 20th. Into the Light: Celebrating Black Composers in Choral Music features the CSU Channel Islands University Chorus and the Pleasant Valley School District Chorus. The program is hosted by CICA Artistic Director Dr. KuanFen Liu and President Dean Butler.

CICA continues its commitment to present choral literature and composers that represent diversity in genre, style, racial, ethnic, and cultural heritages. The event highlights non-idiomatic choral music of some of the most famous and influential Black composers that have too long been neglected in the Western tradition. The Virtual Choruses perform music by Bobby McFerrin, Undine Smith Moore, Mark Miller, Victor C. Johnson and Ysaÿe Barnwell.

CICA in partnership with CSU Channel Islands and Pleasant Valley School District aims to promote choral music that raises awareness and celebrates the diversities among us. Southern California is shaped by the remarkable contributions of its residents. The program pairs the music with examples of individuals and communities that showcase the rich diversity of Los Angeles.

The CSU Channel Islands University Chorus is composed of students, faculty and staff and community members. A highlight of the weekly Zoom rehearsals are the dedicated segments for a community circle in which the participants engage in subject matter related to the music and the theme of the program. Dr. Raquel Baker, Assistant Professor of English at CSU Channel Islands, facilitated a Two-Way Conversation about performing the music of Black composers as well as other provocative issues. Highlights of this unique exchange is a part of the virtual program. Viewers will enjoy the robust dialogue covering topics such as how to use choral music to create equality and how a community can advocate for Asian Americans during this time when there is an upsurge of anti-Asian violence. Inspired by the interchange of heartfelt comments and calls to action for social justice, the students in the chorus created a video poem performance piece in which each reflects on how to be a part of change.

Virtual performances are mastered by Arts Laureate, an elite recording team that sets up virtual performances for groups such as the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and NPR’s JazzSet at the Kennedy Center.

Tickets are $15. Proceeds benefit the Virtual Choir programs sponsored by CICA. Information for the On Demand event and ticket purchase is available at cicachoir.org.

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