Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Choral concert tells the untold story of a Black queer Shaker

Morning Light performed by New York Choral Society explores a Shaker text from the 1870s about resilience in the face of turmoil, and pays homage to Rebecca Cox Jackson.

Born to a free family in 1795, Rebecca Cox Jackson experienced a spiritual awakening in the throes of a violent thunderstorm, converting fear to peace, joy and consolation. She shared her teachings, divine inner voice and spiritual gifts, and became an eldress in the Shaker religion, later founding a Shaker community in Philadelphia that welcomed Black folks and incorporated black female tradition. Rebecca had a partner of more than 30 years, and after Rebecca’s death in 1871 their black Shaker community lived on for more than 25 more years.

Now, performance artist David Thomson, represents Rebecca Cox Jackson with a single dancer on screen juxtaposed against imagery of storms, hard times and challenges based on text from the mid-nineteenth century. The New York Choral Society, New York’s pioneering symphonic chorus brings it to life as Morning Light.

In this digital film collaboration, Dance maker Thomson portrays this prophet with a single dancer, Nehomoyia Young, to pay tribute to a powerful Black female presence, and remind us all that the calm and beautiful light of the morning will always return as long as we stand steadfastly through the storm.

With spirituality as a grounding force, the collaboration highlights the storms of our current timeline; a global pandemic, political and social disruption, uncertainty, and environmental deterioration— and with a room full of singers reunited after nearly two years, coming together in song to offer the promise of growth, progress, and hope.

“Unlike our previous digital projects, this is the first one that will be recorded live and in-person, singing together again after 18 months,” notes New York Choral Society Music Director David Hayes

“This work speaks to the experience we’ve all had: the ‘fearful tempest’ of the text is a shared experience for millions of people now. Perhaps, having stood strong through the storms, we are beginning to see some light – a precursor of the full, bright light that will come when we are fully through the storm.”

The film is now available at https://www.nychoral.org and the company’s YouTube page. 

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