Jessie Howard only planned to drop off some papers at Center in the Park in Germantown Feb. 23, but she ended up staying an hour for the Black History Concert hosted by Songsters Unlimited.
“It was wonderful,” she said of her unexpected discovery. “We’re getting away from [the history], and there’s not enough celebrating anymore.”
The 55-and-older choir sang to a crowd of more than 60 family members, friends and supporters, bedecked in the ‘uniform’ of black and white clothes accented by brown shawls.
Everyone in the room stood to sing the first song of the day, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the African American national anthem.
Celebrating black history is something the group has done since its inception 25 years ago. Diane Berry, Songsters president explained what that effort is all about.
“Today we will try to bring a message of hope,” she said to the crowd. “A message of faith. A message of strength.”
An important part of that effort for the last three years has been the Songsters’ partner in music, the Martin Luther King High School Choir.
During the show, students got a chance to showcase their talent for the crowd. Violinist Samuel James, 17, has been playing for seven years and can also play the bass. Karen Huskey, 17, and Champagne Williams, 19, both chose a song to sing. And James Charles, 17, played “Für Elise” on the piano, a skill that helped land him a full scholarship to DeVry University next year.
The partnership between both choirs started with help from Jerome Lang, the minister of music education for Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church and choir director for Songsters and MLK High.
He believes the relationship brings a lot to both parties. The students are able to learn from the talented seniors, plus it fulfills their community service requirement for school. And the “mature adults” get to understand the “younger people” better, he said.
Songsters Unlimited has more than 50 members in all. All the participants are members of Center in the Park, a non-profit community promoting positive aging. The group performs three to five concerts a year and is getting ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a banquet in May.
Through the many Black History concerts she has attended, Jennie Pringle has become a devoted fan. So much so that she considers joining the group.
“I’m interested in our culture,” Pringle said. “And learning more about our former people and the legacy they left.”
The Rev. Robert T. Jefferson, who is on the advisory council for Songsters and sang “He Touched Me” in a solo performance, agreed with Pringle. He described the group’s work as a way of coming together for Black History and keeping the music alive.