Fisk University, arts groups commemorate MLK Day weekend with “Upon These Shoulders” program


By SOTG News Service


Fisk University, with Nashville-based arts organizations Choral Arts Link and Intersection, hosted “Upon These Shoulders,” a multi-medium art show and concert created to acknowledged the leaders who stood with Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement. The full concert was presented in the Fisk Memorial Chapel while a special pre-concert networking reception was hosted in the campus’s treasured Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery.

The evening started in the Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery where attendees had an educational experience through audio and visual works of art. As guests made their way through the art gallery’s latest exhibits, locally based performers from the MET Singers, Intersection CME, and Fisk University vocal students engaged the audience with an oral history of each featured art piece and/or artist’s collection; afterward, the performers delivered selections related to the artwork.

“Upon These Shoulders” weaved together spoken word, song, and visual art to convey the struggles faced during America’s fight for equality, as well as highlight the connections and evolution of the arts as a mobilization tool in the country’s current fight against injustice. Special highlights from the night included CAL’s MET Singers performing a trilogy of three spirituals by John W. Work III as well as Intersection CME directed by Kelly Corcoran, former associate conductor of the Nashville Symphony,  performingJesse Montgomery’s “12 Moods” with spoken word artist Franklin Willis delivering the words of Langston Hughes.

“The music of the time plays a vital role in the civil rights movement, and included spirituals and hymns that have evolved and continue into today’s soundtrack of the movement,” explained Margaret Campbelle-Holman, executive director of CAL. “This program connected generations by linking the soundtrack through Rap, Classical, and Spoken Word and highlighted common themes that motivated the movement.”

Other performances included the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Dave Ragland’s Diaspora, Tyler Samuel-Sporano, Gwendolyn Brown-Contralto, Allen Christian, spoken word artists Cedric Dent Jr. and Franklin Willis and special guest Ernest Rip Patton, one of Nashville’s remaining Freedom Riders. “We would wake up every morning and as we got ready to do sit-ins we would sing, ‘I ain’t gon’ let nobody turn me around,” sang Patton as he recounted his time in jail for protesting at lunch counters.

The concert’s finale began with an uplifting Zimbabwe freedom song,”Freedom Is Coming,” arranged by Tim Sharp and Joshua Carter. The a capella voices of the MET Singers filled the chapel before African drum patterns rang out to welcome the Intersection CME as a backdrop for the rhythmic spoken word of Cedric Dent Jr. and Franklin Willis. “Freedom Is Coming” culminated with singers and musicians engaging the audience in a call-and-response chant led by Dent & Willis—”Freedom is Real” : “The Time is Now!”

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Fisk University, arts groups commemorate MLK Day weekend with “Upon These Shoulders” program

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