The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) plays host to the “I, Too, Sing America” Choral Festival, which takes its name from the poem by the late poet and social activist Langston Hughes.
The Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts in Princes Anne fills with the heavenly voices of choristers from Bowie State and Delaware State universities, the University of the District of Columbia and UMES on April 6, at 4 p.m.
The choral director for the festival, Dr. Sheila McDonald Harleston, director of choral activities and associate professor at UMES, points to the uniqueness of the event.
“It’s not a competition,” Harleston said. “The purpose is to provide a meaningful experience for the audience, as well as, an opportunity for the talented musicians to broaden their musical perspectives. It also serves to perpetuate the significance of the Negro spiritual and other genres of music.”
Harleston, who has been involved in the choral festival event for the several years, said the festival was the brainchild of Dr. William Garcia of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. The first event at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania has inspired similar concerts that bring together other HBCUs.
This year’s choral festival also features a guest performance by the 38-member symphony orchestra of the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. The ensemble has performed “from the church’s sanctuary to the lawn of the White House.”
One of UMES’ own, Jamal Lee, a 2009 music education major, serves as the symphony’s director and has been instrumental in the growth and outreach of the group, Harleston said. “I am not surprised at Jamal’s success. He was an outstanding student—very creative.”
The choral festival is free and open to the public, however, for $25 concert-goers can enjoy a gourmet buffet prepared in the Richard A. Henson Center by the students and faculty of the Hospitality and Tourism Management program (formerly the Hotel and Restaurant Management) program.
Locations for the dinner ticket sales, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. are: the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts (410-651-6571), Hospitality and Tourism Management (410-651-6563) and the Richard A. Henson Center (410-651-8100). The event is sponsored by the Somerset County Arts Council.
D’Walla Simmons-Burke, Director of Choral and Vocal Studies
Winston-Salem State University