Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presents "Singing Freedom"

ByGreta Phillips
Sunday, January 8, 2023
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presents "Singing Freedom"
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society is presenting a 2-part program that brings to life the journey of enslaved people seeking freedom and salvation.

PHILADELPHIA -- "Singing Freedom" shares the journey of enslaved people escaping the south through two nights of music and vocal performances.

The program is an artistic response to Cornell University's "Freedom on the Move" database and its collection of what were known as runaway advertisements.

"These were classified ads of slave owners looking to capture or locate those that had run away," says Miles Cohen, Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

Part one of "Singing Freedom" features composer Shawn Okpebholo and it's based on information found in more than 30,000 ads in the database.

"These advertisements were, in many cases, the only written documentation of a group of people that we've kind of just generalized. But now all of a sudden, we have real descriptive characteristics like their talents, their skill, set their professions, some of them spoke multiple languages, some of them were great chefs," says Cohen.

Philadelphia native Karen Slack is one of the performers along with Grammy-winner Rhiannon Giddens.

Part two of "Singing Freedom" will feature a choral program composed by Mason Bynes, featuring the Pine Forge Academy Honors Choir.

Philadelphia is a fitting host for the program because of the city's significance along the Underground Railroad.

"It was a city that was a destination, a haven for many people fleeing from the south," says Cohen.

Though the program consists of two complementary parts, each of them tells individual stories.

"Those themes of searching for your voice, wanting freedom, wanting to find your own place in the world; they're as ever-present now as they were 200 years ago," says Cohen.

The Chamber Music Society performs "Singing Freedom" Part 1 on January 15th and Part 2 on January 16th at the Perelman Theater.

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