Special to T&D
COLUMBIA – The Columbia Museum of Art announces the launch of “More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series”, hosted by ethnomusicologist Dr. Birgitta Johnson and which will begin on Saturday, January 15, 2022, during the 30 Americans closing weekend. The series, which offers free entry to students, is premiered by a sample of various sacred choral textures that exist in the tradition of black sacred music.
Black music represents one of the oldest and widest rivers that flows into America’s Sonic Ocean. Whether in pop or rock, classical or hip-hop, the music story of black Americans is key to its enduring popularity and influence across the lines of race, gender, age, class and even language.
“More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series” aims to tell stories of this influence and celebrate how music has historically brought people together. This series takes viewers on a musical journey through several eras of black musical expressions. Through live musical performances and intimate educational opportunities, audiences will find common ground and nurture a deep appreciation for black musical traditions.
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“Black music has touched the social and cultural fabric of America for generations,” says Dr. Johnson. “The CMA’s More Than Rhythm Series is an affirmation of that impact, and we look forward to celebrating with the community through a wide range of music-driven concerts, conversations and events. “
Over the next two years, the CMA and Dr. Johnson will explore different topics, genres and conversations. All experiences take place at the CMA and involve renowned musicians, cultural specialists, community discussions and the celebration of black music.
“More Than Rhythm” will begin from 6 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, January 15, with The Heritage Celebration Chorale, an aggregation of choral educators, amateurs and vocal artists from the Carolinas and Georgia. Led by Dr Tony McNeill, they offer a program of sacred choral works by black composers that span several genres and include classical styles, spirituals, arrangements of hymns, hymns, gospel and music from the traditions of chant of the Carolinian congregation such as measured hymns. , traditional and arranged prayer, and songs of praise from the Black Church. The audience becomes the choir on various singing occasions throughout the concert.
Dr. Tony McNeill, affectionately known as “Dr. T.”, is a sought-after workshop clinician, speaker, consultant, mentor and guest conductor across the country. Dr. McNeill is currently Director of Choral Activities and Chairman of the Music Department at Clinton College in Rock Hill, SC. Prior to his appointment to Clinton College, he was visiting professor and acting choir director at Texas Southern University. Dr. McNeill also served as Director of Worship and the Arts for four and a half years at the historic Atlanta Ebenezer Baptist Church, America’s Freedom Church. Donald Lawrence and The Tri-City Singers (SC / NC) He is the founder and curator of THE CALL 2 WORSHIP GROUP, an online community of musicians and clergy.
The second program in the Friday April 29 series focuses on America’s first global pop style in honor of Jazz Appreciation Month. Guest artist Mimi Jones chats with Dr. Johnson and UofSC Assistant Jazz Professor Dr. Colleen Clark about the vibrant roots and future of jazz genre fusion before Jones and his band ascend on stage for a special performance.
The third program in the series features Benny Starr, hip-hop artist from SC Lowcountry and Outreach, Benny Starr, on Friday, June 3. After meeting Dr Johnson, the recent US Water Alliance Artist-in-Residence performs with a full band to help celebrate Black Music Month. The day before, the CMA will screen Benny Starr’s most recent film project, Restoration: A Concert Film, presented by his hip-hop group, Native Son.
“The music, in whatever form, performed at the Columbia Museum of Art is one of the undiscovered treasures of Columbia, South Carolina,” said Frank Baker of the Baker & Baker Foundation, presenting the sponsors of the series. “The Baker family are honored to support this wonderful series and we look forward to welcoming you at upcoming events. And if you are a student, everything is free.
Birgitta J. Johnson, Ph.D, is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology in the School of Music and African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. His research interests include music in African American churches, musical change and identity in popular black music, and community archiving. She has published articles in the Black Music Research Journal, the Ethnomusicology Forum, Liturgy, Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies and the Grove Dictionary of American Music.
Dr Johnson’s most recent publications include a chapter on 21st century gospel archiving in The Oxford Handbook of Musical Rapatriation, a chapter on gospel remixes of Beyoncé songs in Beyoncé in the World: Making Meaning with Queen Bey in Troubled Times, and sacred themes in Outkast’s music in An OutKast Reader: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Postmodern South. She has been quoted or featured in media and news organizations such as Rolling Stone Magazine, NPR, Vox, Public Radio International, and South Carolina ETV.
A multi-instrumentalist and singer, Dr Johnson has performed professionally and / or recorded with artists and ensembles of various genres, including the Southeast Symphony Orchestra of Metropolitan Los Angeles, the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Francisco Aguabella’s AfroCuban Folkloric group. and the ESPY Awards with Justin Timberlake, The O’Jays, Yolanda Adams, Talib Kweli and BeBe Winans. At UofSC, she teaches courses on world music, hip-hop, blues, African music, black sacred music, Beyoncé and the history of ethnomusicology.
Tickets are $ 20 / $ 10 for members / free for students. The galleries are open one hour before the concert.