Hear, ye! Hear, ye! Calling all patriots! With fife, drum, and songs of freedom, the Chester River Chorale will kick off the annual Chestertown Tea Party weekend with Independence Forever!, a concert celebrating liberty throughout the land.
The 85-voice Chorale performs at Chestertown’s Garfield Center for the Arts at The Prince Theatre, Friday, May 25 at 8 p.m. with Douglas D. Cox, directing, and Sam Marshall providing piano accompaniment.
The spirited concert features hometown guest artist Karen Somerville, the fife and drum duo, Susan Brockman and Douglas F. Webber, and Donna Willingham on the violin. Formal introduction will be provided by the Boston revolutionary patriot Samuel Adams, as played by Washington College’s own John Murray.
“Music in Colonial America was the most effective social media of its time. Rarely did a major event of social, political, or military importance pass without commentary in song,” said Cox. “It has always played a central role in fanning the flames of freedom, from the 18th century to the present day. The passion for and commitment to freedom is palpable in the music we will present—and it relates directly to the liberties we enjoy today.”
The program opens with a specially commissioned medley of Revolutionary Era protest songs (“Yankee Doodle,” “Chester,” and “The Liberty Song”), which give way to iconic freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement (“Blowin’ in the Wind” and “We Shall Overcome”). The Chorale then recounts two major events leading to revolution, the Boston/Chestertown Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill, followed by the appointment of George Washington to lead the colonial militias in war against Great Britain—all told in the stirring music of the time. An excerpt of Randall Thompson’s masterwork, “The Testament of Freedom,” will follow. Inspired by the writings of Thomas Jefferson and composed in 1943 for the bicentennial of his birth, the work was subsequently recruited to rally the nation during World War II.
The 30-voice Chester Chamber Singers and featured soloist Karen Somerville will pay homage to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by offering music of Northern Abolitionists juxtaposed with the African-American slave in the heartfelt song sequence “The Grave of the Slave,” “Oh Freedom,” and “Get Off the Track!”
The full Chorale will return with a brief examination of presidential politics in Henry Clay Work’s “Who Shall Rule this American Nation,” featuring updated lyrics by Chestertown writer and businesswoman, Lanny Parks. In closing, the Chorale remembers Memorial Day by honoring the sacrifice of all who have served, both military and civilian, to secure the freedoms Americans enjoy.