Students from Newburgh Free Academy Choir Perform at SUNY New Paltz

New Paltz, NY: Members of the Newburgh Free Academy Choir caught a ride on the Underground Railroad this weekend, and stole a glimpse of college level production as well. The performance at Studley Theatre at SUNY New Paltz was a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and African American History Month. The afternoon concert played on into the evening - a soundtrack of hymns, blues and ragtime rubbed against a narrative journey through the progression of enslavement. The show carried themes of freedom, hope and deliverance.

Ticket lines were out the door at the campus performance hall, pushing start-time back approximately half an hour. College President Donald Christiansan welcomed the crowd.  Professor A.J. Williams-Meyers from the Black Studies Department spoke in emphatic prose about slavery pushing deep into the joyful noise of freedom furthermore asking everyone in attendance to turn to someone nearby and say, 'together we will.' To which the packed house complied.  

Dr. Nkeiru Okoye - director of Music Theory and Composition at SUNY New Paltz- debuted a series of Songs of Harriet Tubman and creating a mood of enlightenment. Guest performer Ashley Horne - a renowned violinist - brought lightheartedness to the instrument during each of his solo performances standing center stage each time with a quiet smile across his lips.

Newburgh Free Academy choir director Jillian Caci stepped in to conduct several numbers on behalf of scheduled conductor Harvey Felder who was held up by snow-related obstacles in Connecticut.  She didn't miss a beat when she was met on stage by Mezzo-soprano Patrice Eaton and the Pone Ensemble for New Music who played alongside the high school singers for two numbers including Wade in the Water (arr. Chandler Carter) and Go Down Moses (arr. Samuel Nathan). Eaton gave an impassioned performance reaching her vibrato high into the balcony of the theater, sounds of liberation ringing out in triumph over unarguable historical heartbreak that befell human beings during times of slavery. The students provided a softly lit backdrop for the mighty soloist. Despite having missed dress rehearsal Friday thanks to Nemo the parts all blended beautifully.