Melanie with Gullah Sticks

When [Melanie] turns her direct gaze to the audience, it feels like she was born to bring a powerful message through her songs. The combination of her gentle spirit and her deep resounding voice stopped me in my tracks. – Barbara Price, Music Producer


Schedule Update: Melanie DeMore’s March visit has been postponed until June. Read this post from Director of Music Vivian Montgomery, and watch for more updates soon.


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 Charles Street AME Church, Hamilton-Garrett Music and Arts Academy, and the UU Urban Ministry. 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?”



Full Residency Schedule

We are so glad Melanie will be engaging with us as well as those in our wider Boston community! Around Follen, you will find Melanie at the Stewardship Dinner, leading us in worship, speaking at Food for Thought, giving a concert in the Bridges Series, telling a story at the Story Slam, and in many other places, too!

In addition, we invite you to join the Freedom Land chorus. You do not have to be in the choir to participate.

How Can I Help?

There are so many opportunities! Your help is so appreciated.

Volunteer Sign Up


Gullah* Stick-Making and Pounding Workshop

Sunday February 2, 2:30-6:45pm, at the UU Urban Ministry


Freedom Land: Join the Stick-Pounding Chorus

The overarching project of Melanie’s residency is called Freedom Land. It will culminate in two performances of her extraordinary pieces Freedom Land and Sanctuary, along with other music led by her from the African-American tradition. These performances will involve youth (11+) and adult singers from choirs of a number of congregations and institutions.

This program will culminate in two performances: one on Saturday, March 28 at Charles Street AME Church, and the other at Follen Church on Sunday, March 29. Sign up below to participate in the Freedom Land chorus! Information about rehearsal schedule is on the flyer below.

Freedom Land Chorus Sign Up

Freedom Land flyer


Stomp and Sing for Children ages 6-11

Just like with the stick-pounding of older participants, children ages 6-11 will get to feel the Gullah rhythmic spirit too through Stomp & Sing, two workshop/rehearsals on Monday, February 3 (Follen, 4:00-5:15) and Monday March 23 (Conservatory Lab Charter Lower School, Roxbury, 4:30-5:45). Our young stompers are invited to perform, alongside the Freedom Land stick-pounding chorus, in the March 28 concert at Charles Street AME Church (Roxbury) and the March 29 Follen music service.

Stomp and Sing Sign Up


More About Freedom Land and the Gullah Tradition

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:
2. The Washington Chorus with Melanie DeMore:
3. BMA Backstage spotlight:

* What is Gullah? The African-American people of the Georgia and South Carolina Lowcountry and Islands, also called Geechee. Gullah describes their creole dialect of English and distinctive African identity as a people, which they’ve been able to preserve because of climate, geography, cultural pride, and patterns of importation of enslaved Africans. For the Gullah-Geechee, communal singing and dance are vital to survival, and rhythm is deep in their souls. In February and March, there will be many ways to feel the rhythmic spirit of the Gullah as vocal activist Melanie DeMore helps break down walls and create connections through workshops and performances. Through powerful spirituals performed in the Gullah tradition, stick-pounding, hand clapping, and foot stomping, Melanie will challenge all of us to connect with our neighbor and the music within us. Melanie DeMore is a San Francisco Bay-area composer, song-leader, and activist. As part of her expansive residency with Follen Church and Hamilton-Garrett Music & Arts Academy in early February and late March, she will “turn the place into a living, breathing drum.”