School kids learn about black music on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

On Jan. 17, students from area public schools packed Burton Auditorium to hear about the  Nathaniel Dett Chorale and to listen to the Toronto-based choir sing from its repertoire of Afrocentric spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues music. They were celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day at York.

Left: Conductor Brainerd Blyden-Taylor talks about the choir’s repertoire

The celebration began several months ago with a screening of the Gemini Award-winning Carry Me Home: The Story and Music of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale by Canadian filmmakers Liam Romalis and Gerald Packer. The screening took place in October at York.

Students were then invited to York to hear the chorale perform on Jan. 17. The 21-member choir performed Ave Maria, Deep River and Let Us Cheer The Weary Traveler, Go Tell It On the Mountain and other songs under the baton of founder and artistic director Brainerd Blyden-Taylor.

Blyden-Taylor talked about the importance of the day and the lessons to be learned, and engaged the students in an enthusiastic Q & A period. He said the chorale’s performance at York gave students “the opportunity to learn about social justice, Canadian history, black history and musical history all at once.”

Right: Students from Toronto schools packed Burton Auditorium to hear the Nathaniel Dett Chorale 

The event was organized by Professors Coleman Romalis and Shelly Romalis, and supported by the Kitty Lundy Memorial Fund, which sponsors campus lectures and events to enrich academic and cultural life at York. The event was also supported by the Faculty of Fine Arts and Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies with the co-operation of the York Faculty of Education and the Toronto District School Board.

Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver and Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton welcomed the students, who came from the C.W. Jeffreys Secondary School in Toronto and Brookview, Elia, Oakdale and Humber middle schools in Toronto.