Metro Weekly

Spotlight: Congressional Chorus presents “This Is Her Story”

Local choral organization pays homage to some of the greatest Black women composers, arrangers, and performers

Congressional Chorus
Congressional Chorus: Afro Blue

Subtitled “Celebrating Black Women in Music,” the latest virtual concert from the local choral organization pays homage to some of the greatest Black women composers, arrangers, and performers across genres. Represented in the program are contemporary artists including Tracy Chapman — with her signature 1988 breakthrough “Fast Car,” which Rolling Stone ranked No. 167 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, compiled in 2004 — and Alicia Keys, with her signature breakthrough “Fallin'” from 2001. Naturally the setlist also includes the late Undine Smith Moore, the industry trailblazer from Virginia regarded as the “Dean of Black Women Composers.”

“One of the most evil effects of racism in my time was the limits it placed upon the aspirations of Blacks,” Smith is famously quoted as saying, “so that though I have been ‘making up’ and creating music all my life, in my childhood or even in college I would not have thought of calling myself a composer or aspiring to be one.”

Smith’s wide-ranging works released over the span of the Civil Rights Era took significant inspiration from African-American musical elements, notably spirituals. The chorus will perform her arrangement of the traditional spiritual “We Shall Walk Through the Valley.”

Virtual participants from the adult chorus will be joined by members of the group’s Northeast Senior Singers and a cappella Chamber Ensemble, all with direction from Artistic Director Chris Urquiaga and accompanied by an all-Black female band.

Joining as special guests for the occasion is Afro Blue, Howard University’s premier jazz vocal ensemble which gained wider attention a decade ago as a finalist on NBC’s The Sing-Off. Also on tap are solos from Leah Claiborne, a classical pianist as well as University of the District of Columbia professor, and rising opera soprano Brandie Sutton, a Catholic University of America graduate and rising soprano star now linked to New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Streaming begins Saturday, March 13, at 8 p.m., at www.youtube.com/CongChorus, followed by a virtual after-party and Q&A session on Zoom.

Free, with a suggested donation of $20. Search for “Congressional Chorus” on Eventbrite for more information and to register. Call 202-629-3140 or visit www.congressionalchorus.org.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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