Submitted by The North Shore Choral Society
The North Shore Choral Society, under the overall direction of Julia Davids, will perform the music of Black composers in its concert To Sit and Dream, November 13 at 4 p.m., at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Avenue.
Assistant Conductor Tierra Whetstone-Christian has curated and will conduct the program. A graduate of North Park University, Whetstone-Christian joined the North Shore Choral Society in 2019 as Apprentice Conductor and moved to her current position in 2021. She has conducted numerous pieces and has sung solos during her tenure, and she is embracing this new opportunity to plan, rehearse, and lead a full concert with the group.
In selecting music for the performance, Whetstone-Christian chose many of the pieces she had sung earlier, when she was in school. She wanted to conduct the music for an older, seasoned choir like the North Shore Choral Society, whose members have experience, mature voices, and musicality.
“They will do this well,” she said.
It was also an opportunity to educate the mostly white choir about the diversity of Black music, including Gospel and non-idiomatic pieces. Whetstone-Christian acknowledged that some think white choristers should not sing Black music. She disagrees and sees this as an educational opportunity for those unfamiliar with the genre. Experiencing the rhythms and intensity of the music is to learn about it.
One piece was new to Whetstone-Christian: To Sit and Dream by Black female composer Rosephanye Powell with words from the poem To You by Langston Hughes. After discovering it herself, Whetstone-Christian wanted to introduce it to others, she said, for the “dissonance merging with beauty that speaks to our complex world so brilliantly; and how we who dream, we who seek should come together, dream together, make the world a different and more beautiful place, together.”
Under Whetstone-Christian’s direction, the North Shore Choral Society is singing one piece that has never been written down. Composed by her mother and former opera singer Rauquaia Hale-Wallace, Done Opened My Mouth was passed on to Whetstone-Christian through the oral tradition. She in turn, is passing it on to the choir. To learn and sing the music by rote, the North Shore Choral Society has moved out of its comfort zone. In doing so, however, the choir is able to experience what Black singers and others, who in the past had no access to written music, have done for generations.
The North Shore Choral Society looks forward to sharing this beautiful music and the history that comes with it, in its concert on November 13.