The North Shore Choral Society is a 120-member organization known for being an 80-year-old music organization that has given “many hundreds of nonprofessional singers the opportunity to perform choral masterworks, both old and new, and from the traditional to the avant-garde” via its performances.

Yet you would not look to the group for being on the vanguard of diversity.

North Shore Choral Society

Still, on Sunday, the Choral Society’s Assistant Conductor Tierra Whetstone-Christian led this choir in an all African American concert that covered such rich songs from the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to holiday pieces and spirituals.

Conductor Tierra Whetstone-Christian as she leads the her choir members. Credit: Susy Schultz / Evanston RoundTable

The conductor, who was given carte blanche to develop the program, felt it was worth all the time and work.

“I feel overwhelmed with joy,” said Whetstone-Christian after the 11-song concert at the Unitarian Church of Evanston.

“I’m also emotional and very proud that this choir trusted me to to lead them through this music. I learned to trust them and I am so grateful they trusted me. I always had complete faith that they could do this, but I needed them to feel they could do this as well.”

The music was soaring and soulful, despite the full choir singing through masks. It ranged from holiday selections to modern composers. The piece on the video clip below, Bells, arranged by Adrian Dunn, from the album Redemption, was dedicated to the memory of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy killed in 2014 by a white Cleveland police officer.

Conductor Tierra Whetstone-Christian leads the choir in the song Bells.

A second-generation choral artist, Whetstone-Christian also reached out to her family, including her mother, Rauquaia Hale-Wallace, a composer and, as the program describes her, “a celebrated dramatic soprano from Chicago.”

From left: Benjamin Wallace, choral soloist; his mother, Rauquala Hale-Wallace, composer and soprano; and his sister, Tierra Whetstone-Christian, the concert conductor.

Hale-Wallace has also been a teacher and a coach. She contributed to the concert the debut piece, Done Opened My Mouth, which also featured her son, Benjamin Wallace, who shared his rich, beautiful bass voice in the second half of the piece.

Conductor Tierra Whetstone-Christian, conductor, leads the North Shore Choral Society, and bass soloist Benjamin E. Wallace.

Soprano Felicia Patton was soloist on several pieces, including composer Thomas W. Jefferson’s piece, How Lovely is Your Dwelling, and the arrangement by Glenn L. Jones of the song, My Soul’s Been Anchored in Da Lord, as well as Bells, arranged by Adrian Dunn, and the beautiful closing piece, Rejoice, by Jeffery L. Ames.

Pianist Sharon Rich Peterson; Julia Davids, music director; Tierra Whetstone-Christian, conductor; soloist Benjamin E. Wallace and soloist Felicia Patton, the performers from the North Shore Choral Society.

The concert, which started at 4 p.m., had the natural drama of the sunsetting behind the choir during the performance.

Susy Schultz

Susy Schultz is the editor of the Evanston Roundtable. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former president of Public Narrative, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching journalists and...

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