News

Celebrity Series presents free concerts in Dot, South End

By Madeleine D'Angelo, Reporter Correspondent
The Dorchester Reporter,  December 5, 2018

A month-long series of free concerts in Dorchester and the South End kicked off last weekend and will continue through the month of December through the Celebrity Series of Boston. On Sunday, Dec. 8, composer Shaw Pong Liu will bring her group Code Listen 3.0 to the Salvation Army Kroc Center on Dudley Street for a 3 p.m. performance. 

The group unites mothers and teens who have lost loved ones to homicides, community social services, and Boston Police, all of whom will perform original music by Liu. During the event, posters honoring performers’ loved ones who have been murdered will be displayed in the space. 

On Dec. 15, the Kroc Center will host ‘Heart of the Holidays: Tales of Light’ featuring the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, Regie Gibson, Boston City Singers Tour Choir, and Courtney Swain. With spoken word and music inspired by the musicians’ different cultural backgrounds, the performance promises a different kind of holiday show. 

Mendilow, a Roxbury resident, says that the performance will be “a fairy tale that is framed by a conversation between winter, or what we call the cold dark, and the group of people who have the memory of the spell that the cold dark cast, which is an illusion of omnipresence.” 

“These holidays are also about tales where there’s this miracle of light, and what does that mean?” Mendilow said. “What would it mean to enact a miracle of light in our own time just when it gets darkest outside and from that least likely of places? Not Harvard, Dorchester. Not the White House, Mattapan. What does it mean to find such a stunning beautiful light that comes from the cracks in the pavement?” 

On Dec. 20 at 5 p.m., the final performance in the series—50 Portraits of Villa Victoria— will blend hip-hop and jazz saxophone featuring artist Devin Ferreira in a 5 p.m. show at Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, 405 Shawmut Ave. in the South End. For more details — and to RSVP— go to celebrityseries.org.


MERRY MUSIC: Celebrity Series performances celebrate the season

By Jody Feinberg
The Patriot Ledger, November 28, 2018 

Whatever your religious beliefs, the holiday season is about finding light in a time of darkness, hope during periods of despair, peace amidst violence. And that seems more possible when singers and musicians voice these visions.

During three Celebrity Series concerts in December, these universal desires will be expressed by a South African gospel choir, a multi-cultural quintet collaborating with a Greater Boston youth chorus, and a musician bringing together Boston police and people affected by violence. What’s more, two concerts are free – part of the Celebrity Series’ Arts for All initiative - and take place in a theater at a Dorchester community center.

“There’s some real magic to the holidays that has nothing to do with commercialism,” said Guy Mendilow, who performs one of the free concerts. “It’s a time to transform what feels like a dark time into one of possibility and to appreciate that we’re hardwired for community and generosity.”

In “Heart of the Holidays: Tales of Light,” the multi-national Guy Mendilow Ensemble presents an array of stories with the Boston City Singers, professional actor and narrator Regie Gibson, and singer and pianist Courtney Swain on Dec. 15.

“It’s a collection of stories about people who have found hope under difficult circumstances,” said Mendilow, who wrote the piece that includes gospel, pop, South American and Middle Eastern music. “When you combine stories with music it moves people in a visceral way. It’s no longer abstract and it’s like adding color to black and white.”

The experience of a child in apartheid South Africa is one of Mendilow’s stories, but an especially powerful musical expression of hope in South Africa is the Soweto Gospel Choir, which has been part of the Celebrity Series multiple times. In “Songs of the Free” on Dec. 7, the choir celebrates freedom and peace in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle to end apartheid, became the first black president of South Africa and won a Nobel Peace Prize. The Soweto Gospel Choir, who performed for Mandela and won two Grammy Awards, will sing traditional and contemporary gospel and freedom songs in multi-layered harmonies and infectious rhythms, accompanied by a four piece band and percussion section.

“The artistry is so magical,” said Robin Baker, associate director of community engagement at the Celebrity Series. “They sing from the heart and express a wonderful singing tradition.”

Hope is also felt in “Code Listen 3.0: Music for Healing and Dialogue” on Dec. 8. In this free theatrical work, violinist and composer Shaw Pong Liu performs with other professional musicians and Boston Police musicians a narrated piece created by her with mothers and teens who have lost a loved one to homicide. It features Liu, trumpeter Jason Palmer, violist Ashleigh Gordon, the ensemble A Far Cry and members of a Boston Police band and local residents.

Both free programs take place in a state-of-the-art theater within the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center, which opened in 2011, and are part of the Neighborhood Arts program of the Celebrity Series. Since its formation six years ago, Neighborhood Arts has expanded this year to offer 130 free or low-cost arts concerts, workshops and other art experiences in partnership with community organizations.

While the broader mission of the Celebrity Series may not be widely known, Baker said she believes the new website will increase awareness of its commitment to bring live performances to people, whatever their income or neighborhood, part of its Arts for All Initiative. For the first time, web site visitors will see in one spot the range of programs.

“You can now easily see the whole season whether it’s free or ticketed,” Baker said. “We want people to know that we’re bringing excellent artists to not just the main Boston stages, but into the neighborhoods.”

IF YOU GO

“Songs of the Free,” Soweto Gospel Choir, 8 p.m. Dec. 7, Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Tickets start at $45.

“Code Listen 3.0: Music for Healing and Dialogue,” a theater piece with narration and music by string musician and composer Shaw Pong Liu, trumpeter Jason Palmer and violist Ashleigh Gordon with contributions from Boston Police musicians and Boston mothers and teens, 3 p.m. Dec. 8, Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center, 650 Dudley St., Dorchester. Free.

“Heart of the Holidays:Tales of Light” Guy Mendilow Ensemble, Boston City Singers, narrator Regie Gibson, and singer and pianist Courtney Swain, 3 p.m., Saturday Dec. 15, Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center, 650 Dudley St., Dorchester. Free.

Information and tickets for all concerts at www.celebrityseries.org or 617-482-2595.

In addition to the Celebrity Series free performances, the Mayor’s Holiday Special collaborates with ArtsBoston to offer 130 events in Greater Boston up to 50 percent off. For listings and tickets, go to www.artsboston.org.


Highlights: Mandela Centenary Celebration

South Africa Partners, June 20, 2018

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, South Africa Partners and the JFK Library Foundation hosted an open discussion with South African activists Max and Elinor Sisulu at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum to honor Nelson Mandela’s Centenary. The event celebrated Mandela’s uniting leadership and reflected on its relevance today for the next generation of leaders who are carrying his vision forward. Young Bostonians from the Boston City Singers kicked off the day with an exuberant medley of traditional South African songs.

The event also remembered Mandela’s historic visit to Boston on June 23, 1990, an event that brought Boston communities together in celebration of democracy and racial justice.

WATCH THE EVENT HERE

WATCH SABC NEWS COVERAGE FEATURED IN SOUTH AFRICA 

Why We Celebrate Mandela's Centenary

Dr. Judy Bigby, South Africa Partners Executive Director

Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 years on July 18 this year. On this occasion we remember Nelson Mandela not only for the impact he had on his own nation, but also for the impact he had on ours. President Barack Obama often said that Mandela was one of the most important leaders who inspired him even though they were generations apart.

Today we remember the sacrifices Mandela made and appreciate how extraordinary it is that after spending 27 years in prison, upon his release at age 72 he led the effort to dismantle the legacy of apartheid. He and his peers tackled institutionalized racism and restored human rights for all South Africans. He withstood the challenge of bringing together a divided country when many expected the nation would go up in flames. President Obama recognized that Mandela’s “…extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit as well as his example of tolerance, compassion, and reconciliation are as meaningful today as they were in his lifetime.” Aspiring leaders can learn from his example and commit to those values as they look to the future.

Many of us in Boston witnessed firsthand the impact of Mandela’s leadership when he visited in June 1990 shortly after his release from prison. Boston was a city still uneasy with its own diversity and history of racism. Mandela noted the historical significance of Boston in the fight for independence and as a leader of the abolitionist movement. He acknowledged Massachusetts as the first state to divest its pension funds from companies that did business with South Africa. Nevertheless, in 1990, the city remained segregated and the memories of racial tensions after antibusing demonstrations in the 70’s and 80’s remained. I do not know whether Mandela was aware that the African American community of Roxbury, one stop on his tour of Boston, had taken a vote to secede from Boston and rename itself Mandela.

In Roxbury blacks cheered as he made his way to Madison Park High School where he addressed black youth about the importance of staying in school. Later when he spoke on the Esplanade, more than 200,000 people of all races greeted him and cheered as he joined arms with local leaders black and white. On that day, it felt like there was racial harmony. There was definitely a great sense of hope and a collective appreciation for Nelson Mandela as a visionary leader.

So this year, we celebrate Mandela with the hope that we will honor his memory for many years to come by meeting head on the challenges that we face in South Africa and in the US to achieve racial and economic justice and equality in both countries.

Thank you for joining us on this momentous occasion,
Judy

Photos by Paul Drake


First Fenway Porchfest Set for Tomorrow

BU Today, June 15, 2018
By Sarah Wells (COM’18)

It all started with a group of neighbors and a ukulele in Ithaca, N.Y., back in 2007. About 20 local musicians gathered on front porches to bring the community together through live music. What they didn’t know then: that first Porchfest would spread to local communities across the United States and Canada. Today, Porchfests have taken hold in big cities (Montreal, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, Mo.) and little towns (North Liberty, Iowa, and Grants Pass, Ore.).

In 2011 Somerville was the first town to bring Porchfest to the greater Boston area. This year, nine communities and neighborhoods around the city will host a Porchfest. The first annual Fenway Porchfest is tomorrow, Saturday, June 16, and should be a showstopper.

The afternoon event (noon to 4 pm) will feature 70 local musicians, bands, and ensembles performing at 25 Fenway locations. Both amateur and professional musicians will be on hand, including the Boston Pops Esplanade Brass and the Boston City Singers. Festival organizers plan to give special priority to musicians who live or work in the neighborhood.

Given the Fenway’s dearth of porches, tomorrow’s Porchfest stages will include green spaces, stoops, and patios.


Boston City Singers Awarded $100,000

Dorchester Nonprofit Receives Cummings Foundation Grant

BOSTON (May 31)—Boston City Singers is one of 100 local nonprofit organizations to receive a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation’s $100K for 100program. As a Dorchester-based organization, we were chosen during a competitive review process from a total of 597 applications. The grant will be paid over four years.

Founded in 1995, Boston City Singers focuses on inclusion, access and social justice. We are known for our family atmosphere where diversity of all kinds is acknowledged and welcomed. We have created a unique community where love is born, peace is kept, and magic is real. Our 15 programs, for ages 4-18, are gateways to life-changing experiences.

Funds from the Cummings Foundation will support increased staff capacity for youth development programs and youth leadership training. “We are extremely grateful to Bill and Joyce Cummings and the Cummings Foundation for their investment in our youth,” said Founding Artistic Director Jane Money.

We are indebted to the nonprofit organizations like Boston City Singers that have a meaningful impact on the local communities where our colleagues and clients live and work,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s Executive Director.  The Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings. The Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 11 million square feet of space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation. 

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About Boston City Singers

Founded in 1995, Boston City Singers, along with its subsidiary Cambridge Children’s Chorus, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing music education and creative youth development programming to children aged 4 to 18, regardless of financial means. The organization’s programs in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Cambridge serve early 500 children with the majority of our youth residing in the urban neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and South Boston. In addition to music instruction and performance experience, Boston City Singers incorporates youth development and leadership-training opportunities. Since 1995, 100% of our graduating seniors have been accepted to four-year college programs. Additional information can be found at www.bostoncitysingers.org

 

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons communities in Marlborough and Woburn. They have awarded over $220 million to Boston-area nonprofits to date. Bill Cummings released his self-written memoir, “Starting Small and Making it Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist,” in March 2018. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org and Cummings.com/book


Milton teen to perform with Boston Pops

Patriot Ledger, May 6, 2018
By Patriot Ledger staff

Milton teenager Sam Higgins will sing with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall on June 6.

Sam, 15, is one of three winners of the 10th annual Fidelity Investments Young Artists Competition, a state-wide competition for high school students. They will perform with maestro Keith Lockhart and the orchestra along with Sutton Foster, a Tony Award-winner and star of the television show “Younger.”

“It has been my dream to perform with the Boston Pops,” Sam said.

A freshman at Milton High School, Sam, started singing with the Boston City Singers at age 4. The Boston City Singers is a non-profit organization that provides music education to children ages 4 to 18.

“I’ve been singing since before I could talk,” Sam said. “And singing continues to be the biggest passion in my life. It is surreal that at the mere age of 15, I’m really starting to live out my dream -- I want to be an opera singer.”

Sam is the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Higgins. He was chosen as a winner of the competition for his performance of J.S. Bach’s “Bereite dich, Zion.”

In addition to his training with Boston City Singers, Sam studies with Eiji Miura, a graduate of Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music and a member of the faculty of New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School.

For more information log onto bso.org.


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