HADLEY – The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum kicks off its 38th season of Wednesday Folk Traditions on June 12th, 2019 with Evelyn Harris in our 9th annual Horace Clarence Boyer Memorial Gospel Concert. Harris will perform “A History of Gospel.” A powerhouse vocalist and former member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Evelyn Harris is a Grammy nominated composer whose remarkable instrument creates stirring interpretations of the traditional African-American song canon. She will be accompanied by New York City pianist, composer Dionne McClain-Freeney. This performance and all Wednesday Folk Traditions Concerts are held Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm in the Sunken Garden at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, 130 River Drive, Route 47, Hadley MA 01035. Admission is $12, $2 children 16 and under. Picnickers are welcome on the museum’s grounds starting at 5:00 pm. The museum and its grounds are a smoke-free site. For further information please call (413) 584-4699 or view < a href="http://www.pphmuseum.org">www.pphmuseum.org< /a> .
Evelyn Harris comments on the history of gospel, “When African-Americans realized they could travel north and forge a new life, hopefully facing less bigotry, the spirituals written by slaves no longer told their new stories. Gospel music came into being in the beginning of the 20th century and took hold of many Black Baptist churches in their new homesteads of Chicago, New York City, Washington, DC, Memphis, Philadelphia and other small and large cities. The excitement and frenzy for their new lives was immediately heard and felt in the new sacred music called gospel.”
Evelyn Harris hails from Richmond, Virginia, where she grew up in the church – the same place she started singing. Her musical style and her later ensemble collaborations reflect the gospel style. Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., a historically black institution, where she studied music, majoring in Voice. After her graduation, she joined the newly-formed black women’s a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock, performing with them for the first time in 1974. Over the course of her eighteen-year stint in the internationally-acclaimed ensemble, she not only acted as a singer and member of the group, but her experience informed her growth as a composer and arranger. Harris also co-produced nine of the ensemble’s albums. In 1988, one of Harris’ original compositions, “State of Emergency,” a statement for the end to South African Apartheid, from the ensemble’s album Live at Carnegie Hall, was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Following her retirement from Sweet Honey in the Rock, Harris pursued a solo career. “It’s very different from being in a group,” says Harris, “You have to balance your time between craft and business.” Harris’ multiple roles during her time in Sweet Honey clearly contributed to her success as a solo performer. She now performs around the Pioneer Valley at various venues, sometimes a cappella, sometimes with a trio, usually showcasing her jazz repertoire. Now, Harris devotes much of her time to coaching others as well, she is currently the Director of the Ku’umba Women’s Choir through the Northampton Community Music Center. Harris’ view of her music is that of wonder and discovery and notes her commitment to giving back: “Singing is my giving back with thanks and praise.” She draws on a variety of different styles as a solo artist, including jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, African-American song styles and gospel, never forgetting her roots but always building upon them.
Harris will be joined by pianist, composer, singer, choral director, and teaching artist Dionne McClain-Freeney. McClain-Freeney is the composer and lyricist of the acclaimed musical, and winner of Best Ensemble Performance at the New York Musical Theater Festival, This One Girl’s Story. She is also a frequent artist in France’s Absolute Gospel Festival, and at some of New York’s most loved venues and churches.
This annual memorial performance commemorates the life and work of the late Horace Clarence Boyer, a beloved and internationally acclaimed musician and scholar of Gospel Music. Dr. Boyer, who for 25 years presented an annual gospel performance at the museum, was a pivotal member of the Pioneer Valley musical community, a long-time professor at UMass, and minister of music at the Goodwin Memorial African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Boyer often performed with the groups he introduced, and he cited as part of his mission nurturing Gospel here in the Valley and throughout the world. The museum aims to further that goal with this memorial series, continuing the tradition he supported and preserving his legacy.
Wednesday Folk Traditions continues on June 19th with a performance by The Afro-Semitic Experience and will continue throughout June and July. The Afro-Semitic Experience is dedicated to preserving, promoting and expanding the cultural and musical heritage of the Jewish and African diaspora. Comprised of African-American and Jewish-American musicians, their performance is an artistic response to anti-Semitism and racism of all forms.
The Porter-Phelps Huntington Museum Wednesday Folk Traditions is funded, in part, by grants from: the Marion I. And Otto C. Kohler Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; the Amherst and Hadley Cultural Councils, local agencies, supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency; Massachusetts Cultural Council Festivals Program; Easthampton Savings Bank, Eversource Energy, Gage-Wiley & Co., and with generous support from many local businesses.
The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum is located at 130 River Drive (Route 47) in Hadley, two miles north of the junction of Routes 9 and 47. The Museum is open for guided tours Saturday through Wednesday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The house, which remains unchanged since the family’s occupancy, tells the story of six generations of prominent Hadley residents. The family, prosperous traders turned farmers, fought in both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, rose to prominence in local government, and embodied a consistently progressive social consciousness. Tours highlight both local and regional narratives, from architecture, material culture, and labor, to early-American theology, economics, women’s history and social movements. For further information about tours or other programs, please call the Museum at (413) 584-4699 or visit our website at http://www.pphmuseum.org .