February 2006

Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Voices of the Diaspora... The Niagara Movement
February 22, 2006George Weston Recital HallToronto
... solid musicianship, wit, and freely creative vocal compositions
by David Fujino
This wasn't just Gospel music.

When the 21-member Nathaniel Dett Chorale performed Voices of the Diaspora... The Niagara Movement, we experienced the full spectrum diversity and glory of African Canadian classical vocal music.

Voices of the Diaspora... The Niagara Movement is a dramatic staging of the lifelong debate between the two prominent African American leaders, W.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington.

Washington wrote the book, Up From Slavery. DuBois wrote The Souls of Black Folk.

In three Acts, we experience the remarkable careers of DuBois and Washington: Act I — The Early Years. Act II — Coming Into Manhood. Act III — Clash of The Titans.

As played by the actor Andrew Moodie, Booker T. Washington appears a relaxed but clearly intentioned man. As played by David Collins, DuBois is an acerbic and tightly wound man. They couldn't be more different.

For their part, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale continually moved us with their clear transparent layers of sound, and when they sang the first piece, "Let Us Cheer the Weary Traveller", written by their namesake, the renowned African Canadian composer, Nathaniel Dett, we knew the evening would be filled with solid musicianship, wit, and freely creative vocal compositions.

Booker T. Washington
As for what The Niagara Movement was about, it was the first significant black protest movement in the 20th Century. Organized by W. B. Du Bois, black activists convened in Fort Erie from July 11–14, 1905 to "claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America." The Niagara Movement sensitized Americans to black discontent over worsening racial relations in America.

W.B. DuBois

Now the Nathaniel Dett Chorale is educating today's audiences, for they are a multicultural choir, firmly dedicated to music with an African focus, but open to expanding their repertoire and collaborating in the future with other artists and other cultures.

Or, as the multi-talented founder and director of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Mr. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor has intelligently put it:

"Our diversity is really our major commonality — that we are diverse is our unifying factor. But how do we live with each other? We do that by telling our stories and by sharing who we are with each other. That's what's interesting, that's what's helpful."

Niagara Movement: A Centennial Celebration was written by Timothy P. Henderson and Eva Nicklas
Brainerd Blyden-Taylor is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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