By Madeline Marcelia Garvin
When I read in Frost that The Philadelphia Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra was going to be in Indianapolis during the time that I would be there for a workshop, I said: “I will travel a day ahead a time.” For like the O’Jays, “I love music; any kind of music.” However, Saturday evening was more than an evening of music; it was an awe inspiring event.
Yes, Saturday evening, July 18, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. in the J.W. Marriott Ballroom, I was captivated by various styles of music. Utilizing varied forms of artistry, significant messages were delivered by an array of artists; namely dancers, musicians and orators in regards to the importance of water and the impact that climate change and water conservation has on the world.
The actual program entitled: Water: A Sacred Confluence of the Arts, Ecology and Activism was created and produced by: Rev. Dr. Cecelia Williams Bryant. And, as outlined in the program, Saturday evening was a gathering of 40 nations that would have the opportunity to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. As indicated, “In every language, culture and political ideology, our need for WATER remains the same. Thus, the FOURTH DISTRICT of the Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church sponsored A MESSAGE, A MISSION and A MANDATE:
1. THE MESSAGE: To emphasize that WATER is a SACRED GIFT, A LIFE SOURCE and a HUMAN RIGHT.
2. THE MISSION: To make potable WATER accessible to a primary school in LIBERIA and to support a potable water project in HAITI.
3. THE MANDATE: To inspire AME CHURCHES locally and globally to become intergenerational WATER WITNESSES and ECO ACTIVISTS: To promote sustainable lifestyles on the Planet for the uplift of Humanity and THE GLORY of God.
Though the orchestral concert was magnificent, the visual images of drought stricken countries and cities displayed on the screens throughout the course of the evening were also very impactful; these images helped one visualize how important it now is to conserve water more religiously. At one point in the evening, the conductor Maestra Jeri Lynne Johnson stated that she felt like she was in an infomercial due to the many snippets introduced regarding the impending global water shortage and the importance of conserving this precious natural resource. Such messages as: “Less than 3% of Earth’s water is fresh; 70% of the world’s water is locked up in ice and glaciers; 2/3rds of the world’s water is used to produce food; 22% of water in the U.S. is used for laundry; and Americans use an average of 100 gallons a day.” To alleviate the impending shortage in America, it was recommended that people take shorter showers; use Earth friendly products, and spread the word regarding the importance of water conservation. Though such poignant messages were disseminated throughout the evening, they did not distract from the ethereal/spiritual quality of the musicianship of the very ephemeral orchestral performances.
Those in attendance were introduced to ministers and dignitaries in person and via video. Such individuals included: the illustrious Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first A.M.E. female Bishop; Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, the first female historiographer of the A.M.E. Church; Mother Yvonne Chinakila M. Kawimbe, the first A.M.E. Supervisor born in the 17th District; International PBS Reporter, Gwen Ifill; Dr. Leah Gaskin Fitchue, the first woman President of Payne Theological Seminary; Dr. Sylvia Ross Talbot, the former Minister of Education in Guyana, South America; and Astronaut Stephanie Wilson.
Whereas, the host choir led by Bishop Frederick Hilborn Talbot; and the Call to Activism headed by: Jerusha Richards, Canadian Conference President and Sadhana Satish, the A.M.E. India Conference President, and the magnificent liturgical dances choreographed by Jamila Carney and Diane Gary were awe inspiring, for they commanded and took over the stage. Essentially, they were simply amazing; they brought the audience all in and they made the evening come alive.
And, because music, like water is a healing force, the selections rendered: Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt, Suite #1, “Morning Mood and Death of Ase;” the Negro Spiritual – “Wade in the Water;” “Spirit Is Like Waters;” “Living Waters;” and the host choir and congregation song: “Let Your Living Waters Flow” stirred the passion in many. However, that which emotionally charged me the most was the operatic rendition of “Lift up Your Heads Oh Ye Gates” that featured: The Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and a soloist from the host choir.
The African Methodist Episcopal committees responsible for bringing The Black Pearl Orchestra to the 2015 IBE Summer Celebration can be applauded for not only was this orchestra ethnically diverse and highly professionally skilled; but, the musicians and choral members were also diverse in age.
Yes, The Black Pearl Orchestra was the headliner, and the director was most impressive, just as the liturgical dancers and the choir. The talent displayed that evening was enjoyable and exquisite, which was evident throughout the evening for very few exited the filled Marriott Ballroom prior to the concert’s end, and those who rode the bus from Turner Chapel A.M.E. and the van from the Marion A.M.E. churches were blessed; and the Honorable Marion City Councilwoman President Joselyn Whitticker, who was simply enthralled, endorsed the program as one of the best. This year’s IBE had a wide range of talented performers throughout the weekend, but, if it had not been for IPD’s Officer Maxwell, transporting me to the front door of the J.W. Marriott, I probably would not have survived the trek to the hotel. Nevertheless, if I am ambulatory, I look forward to next year’s IBE Summer Celebration!