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      Lift Every Voice and Sing by Thomas Putnam

      MLK4Besides working every day at camp in Blossburg, and casting the next camp in Elkland, and rehearsing daily for A POUND OF FLESH, I'm gearing up for the MLK Concert in just under two weeks. We hosted one of these choral gatherings two years ago, and planned one for last year but got weathered out. Another one is planned for Monday, January 20 at the Wellsboro High School. I try to keep it simple, but there are a lot of preparations and planning involved and it all takes time.

      Time well spent, I believe. First, the directors of each of the choral ensembles that are joining us are all great folks; talented, skillful, and generous. Diana Frazier directs two of the choirs: Wednesday Morning Musicales Chorus which is mixed men and women, and the Wellsboro Women's Chorus. Christina Simonis directs the Wellsboro Men's Chorus. Daniel Sensinig directs the WAHS Dickens Choir. Morgan Shaffer directs the RLBUTLER Middle School 7/8 Choir. And new to the event this year is the newly formed Pine Pitch, a small acapella group lead by Kacy Hagen and Karin Knaus.

      The HG Young Men and Young Women's Choirs are singing, too. At our rehearsal this past Monday—our first rehearsal since early December—we reviewed the songs we have prepared and sang through some new ones that the whole audience is invited to sing. I'm continually amazed and pleased that so many of these high-school aged kids are so tuned into and connect with “Lift Up Your Voice and Sing” which has become known as the black national anthem. The arrangement we sing has got a gospel swing feel which could be the appeal, but I think the words and the history of the piece have worked their way into these young minds/souls.

      Our theme this year with the HG Choirs explores the earth and skies and our responsibility to caring for them. As we are becoming acutely aware, our natural home is in danger of destruction so the theme is more than something to talk about, but rather something to stir and motivate to action. The song “Lift Every Voice...” has so many references to the natural world that our exploration takes on richer meaning as we frame the 300 year struggle of the black race in our history and the current struggle of the survival of our environmental home.
      Lift Every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty
      Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
      ...facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.

      Looking forward to our gathering on the 20th.

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