I, Too, Sing America

I, Too, Sing America

The Project

Taking its name from Langston Hughes’ 1925 poem, The I, Too, Sing America Project is a musical conversation and performance partnership between the Cathedral Choral Society and the Heritage Signature Chorale to increase awareness and understanding of the music of African Americans, with the aim of elevating the art form in the public consciousness and better establishing it as a foundation of American music. We will be exploring the repertoire of Spirituals, as well as large-scale choral-orchestral works of African American composers.

BACKGROUND

Rarely has African American music been given the same attention on concert programs, in research journals, in funding opportunities, and in the overall national consciousness as music of other traditions. Yet, African American music represents a truly significant foundation of American musical culture. The music first evolved as the expression of enslaved peoples, and then served as the foundation for quintessential American genres, such as jazz, blues, and rock n’ roll.  The original music itself is deeply complex, rich in history, and beautiful in aesthetic. We are excited to explore this repertoire more deeply together with an ensemble that has a particularly powerful connection with and expertise in it. What’s more, the music provides a profound perspective on slavery and the emotions and challenges of those people who endured slavery.

Langston Hughes

I, Too, Sing America is a reference to the first line of Langston Hughes’ 1925 poem “I, Too.” In it, Hughes uses the image of African American people not having a seat at the table “when company comes,” and refers to a time when others might realize the beauty of the African American culture. The I, Too, Sing America Project will document a journey in learning to understand, perform, and celebrate the deep history and meaning in the music of African Americans.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

 

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

 

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

 

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

 

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates, Inc.

Read more at poets.org
Why Heritage Signature Chorale

For more than 20 years, The Heritage Signature Chorale has been, and continues to be, committed to preserving, at the highest possible level, the performance tradition of African American choral music, especially the Negro Spiritual; to elevating the African American singer and composer in all musical genres; and to bringing a unique interpretation of classical music from America, Europe and other regions of the world. The Chorale provides a venue for showcasing artists, composers, and arrangers who share this commitment, thereby fostering community awareness and appreciation of this important legacy.

Visit Heritage Signature Chorale
Why CCS

Through music, we can build a more equitable and connected worldwide community.

As one of the original symphonic choruses in the nation, and the oldest choral society in Washington, DC, we wish to delve deeper and highlight the extraordinary musical contributions of African Americans to our nation’s story. And, as a choir with significant resources, a visible home at Washington National Cathedral, and a prominent place in the American musical landscape, we feel a responsibility in this regard and acknowledge that we can play an important role in elevating the music of African American composers.

We commit ourselves to acting with integrity by compensating and crediting our participants, acknowledging that there is a difference between cultural representation and cultural appropriation, and, most of all, recognizing when we haven’t met these goals.

Goals & Outcomes

GOALS

  1. Elevate African American choral groups & elevate African American choral composers.
  2. Build a lasting relationship between the members of two of Washington, DC’s most prominent choirs.
  3. Ensure that African American choral music is appropriately respected as a cornerstone of American musical repertoire.
  4. Improve CCS’s understanding of African American music and associated history and performance traditions.
  5. Share this knowledge so that others may learn.
  6. Provide points of consideration for choirs and choral directors when approaching African American choral music.
  7. Provide learning resources for choirs and choral directors to learn about African American choral music.

OUTCOMES

  1. A broader understanding of the history and influence of African American choral music.
  2. Greater parity and equity for music of African American composers in choral programming.
  3. A community brought together by a shared understanding of our national culture and history.
Scope

The first stage of the project is a three-year, part live and part digital program documenting the journey of the two choirs getting to know one another and performing this beautiful and inspiring music together. A library of video interviews with musical leaders and other resources related to the performance of African American music will be hosted (free access) on the CCS website and YouTube channel. Live music presentations under the direction of Stanley Thurston, Steven Fox, and others, will include Spirituals, oratorios, and other works by African American composers.

The Team

Dana M. Anderson
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Heritage Signature Chorale

Christopher Eanes
Executive Director, Cathedral Choral Society

Steven Fox
Music Director, Cathedral Choral Society

Susan Stanford
Board Member, Cathedral Choral Society

Stanley J. Thurston
Artistic Director and Founder, Heritage Signature Chorale