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A Packed Day

A packed day yesterday -- we left Atlanta and made our way to Birmingham. After replacing a broken down bus, we first stopped in Montgomery, Alabama for a noon concert at the Old Ship AME Zion Church, a the oldest African American church in the city. After the concert, we were served lunch by the church -- a delicious buffet of fried chicken, various pasta dishes, salad, and pound cake with vanilla ice cream. After lunch, we walked over to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (the National Lynching Memorial). What a sobering place, with its suspended slabs of rusty metal representing each county in the country where lynchings took place, and the name of the lynched inscribed on the side. The slabs went on and on. . .

We stopped on our way out of town at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his message of hope and brotherhood from 1954 to 1960. In its basement, King organized the Montgomery bus boycott. We walked in on a tour of the church in progress, and were invited by the tour guide to perform a pop-up concert in the sanctuary. Very moving to be singing about peace and justice in the church where Rev. King got his start. 

Back on the bus, we headed to Selma, where we walked across the Edmund Pettus BridgeBuilt in 1940, it is named after Edmund Winston Pettus, a former Confederate brigadier general, Democratic U.S. Senator, and grand wizard of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. It is the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when armed police attacked and brutally beat Civil Rights Movement demonstrators with horses, billy clubs, and tear gas as they were attempting to march to the state capital, Montgomery. On the other side of the bridge, a small quiet park celebrated some of the heroes of the movement. After resting there for a while, we were back on the buses on our way to Birmingham, where we arrived at about 8:45. 

Certainly a day filled with things to think about.


National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Just a few minutes to share some pictures from yesterday, then we're off on the bus to Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham for more singing and sight seeing.

Singing about civil rights at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights was a moving experience. In the museum, we took in the exhibits of the civil rights movement from its beginnings in the 1960's. Sobering and thought-provoking, the museum shows it like it was, with all the horror of the attacks on marchers and protesters and their bravery and restraint in response. In anticipation of our concert, the Center programmed a special exhibit about the Red Summer of 1919 so museum goers had a chance to learn a little background on the events that we were singing to commenorate. Especially moving to me was the performance of "And They Lynched Him on a Tree," with our own second alto Annette Singletary singing the role of the mother of the black man who was hanged. The songs following that offered solace and healing to the audience that had gathered to hear us.

Now we're off to Montgomery and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice!


Our first rehearsal

We're here! All but one of our singers had an easy time getting here (her flight was delayed and she will join us today), and by 4:15 we were in the breakfast room of our hotel for our first joint rehearsal with Grace Chorale. The combined choruses sounded wonderful in our improvised rehearsal space, where the conductor's stand was a bar stool. We're excited to tour the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and perform a concert there at 3:00 this afternoon.

Hungry after that energetic rehearsal, a number of us from both choruses headed out for dinner at Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint. Not only was the food bountiful and delicious, the band was stellar. Of course, dancing ensued and the joint was jumpin'. 

Final Rehearsal for the Civil Rights Concert Tour

We had a great final rehearsal last night for our Civil Rights Concert Tour. Excitement is building as we prepare to take our message of social justice to historic sites in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Montgomery. Tomorrow we meet with the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn for our first joint rehearsal for formal and informal concert performances over the Fourth of July holiday. Check back here as we share out experiences and photos on a daily basis.



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