Vocal Activist Melanie DeMore

Greater Boston Collaboration with

Vocal Activist Melanie DeMore

Sponsored by

The Urban Church Music Friendship Initiative of Follen Church, Lexington
Vivian Montgomery, Director of Music

In February and March of 2020, Follen will host San Francisco composer, song-leader, and activist Melanie DeMore in a two-pronged residency involving our choirs, our congregants, and singers from Boston-area churches and institutions that serve largely communities of color. Melanie uses Gullah stick-pounding, song, and narrative, with her own powerful compositions combining all of those elements, as community-building, division-bridging vehicles. She is in great demand for her work leading anti-prejudice events in religious institutions and schools across the country, bringing together vastly diverse populations, so the Follen community looks forward to having her guidance, through song and rhythmic collaboration, in forging deeply real, inspiring, and lasting relationships with neighboring urban communities. As Melanie says, “Why can’t we all just sing along?”

The culminating project of Melanie’s residency will be performance of her extraordinary pieces “Freedom Land” and “Sanctuary,” along with other music led by her from the African-American tradition. This performance will involve teenage and adult singers from choirs of a number of congregations and institutions, and will engage them in:

  • a stick-making and stick-pounding intensive (Sunday, February 2 at the UU Urban Ministry, Roxbury)
  • 5 rehearsals to learn the pieces and to get to know one another (TBD during Feb. 3-9 and March 22-28)
  • at least two performances (one being a March 29 Sunday music service at Follen Church to benefit Hamilton-Garrett Music & Arts Academy, and one or more TBD on March 27-28 to take place at, and benefit, our collaborating institutions)

The pieces are profound in their evocation of the enslaved person’s human experience – fear, prayer, determination, and elation are captured in intense rhythms, incantation, rich harmony, and interactive delivery. But why use words? Here are the links to a performance of “Freedom Land” with VocalEssence Chorus and Patrick Henry High
School Choir at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis:

1. Which Way?
2: I’m On my Way, Oh Freedom
3. Free Free Free (Piece with Gullah clapping rhythms)

Other videos:
1. Melanie DeMore on Stick Pounding: https://youtu.be/9QafgYTItgw
2. The Washington Chorus with Melanie DeMore: https://youtu.be/84YCv3AE9ZI
3. BMA Backstage spotlight: https://youtu.be/G8At6uxrWas