|By Nenad N. Bach |
Culture And Arts
|From the Boston Globe - it's buried in the story. John Kraljic |
Plymouth offers a Thanksgiving twist
By Robert Knox, Globe Correspondent, 11/15/2001
LYMOUTH - To Lynne Wilkinson, the message of autumn and Thanksgiving is
renewal and hope. The director of the a cappella chorus Persephone's
Daughters has prepared ''Autumn Leaves,'' a program of songs and
readings, to celebrate those values.
Included are lines like these from ''November Morning'' by Elizabeth
Tarbox: ''Perhaps the spirit that moves the bird to flight also moves in
us to commit love in response to anger, and kindness where there has
''Autumn Leaves'' will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Plymouth's
First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church. It is part of the town's
daylong ''Home to Thanksgiving'' celebration, a series of open houses
and special events.
Historic houses and local museums will be open all day, and a 4 p.m.
candlelight vigil at Plymouth Rock will include band music and a talk by
the Rev. Peter Gomes, a Harvard professor and Plymouth native.
The 50-voice women's chorus Persephone's Daughters is based on a
traditional African style of learning music. Rather than reading music,
the singers learn songs line by line and phrase by phrase by copying the
leader's singing. The method, taught by Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in
the Rock, focuses on building a vocal community by teaching music
Wilkinson, who is classically trained and sings with Boston Cecilia, was
inspired by other women's choruses and studied the oral method in
''The idea is to make music accessible to all women who want to sing,''
Wilkinson said last week. ''You're teaching everything orally, so they
don't have to be able to read music. It's a way for women to build
community through singing and to experience other cultures through
music.'' The group rehearses on Thursday nights.
The concert Saturday will be divided into two parts, ''Autumn'' and
''Harvest Home,'' the English name for the custom that became America's
Thanksgiving. The first half, Wilkinson states in a press release for
the concert, ''explores the message of renewal and hope through the
turning of the seasons.'' The music includes an African chant, the songs
''We are Strong Women'' and ''The Moon is a Cradle,'' a Croatian harvest
song, and a solo performance of ''Seasons of Peace.''
The late Elizabeth Tarbox, a South Shore Unitarian Universalist
minister, published two books of meditations. ''November Morning''
reflects on whether the wild goose knows that the hunter awaits.
''Perhaps the bird knows and flies on,'' Tarbox wrote in the meditation
that will be read at ''Autumn Leaves'' by a chorus member. ''Perhaps the
bird knows what we know, that the world is a place of beauty, and of
madness, of violence, and of compassion.''
The seasons teach the wisdom, and the solace, of ''turning,'' Wilkinson
said. Even with the coming of winter, she said, the message of turning
is hope and understanding. It is a message the director of Persephone's
Daughters finds particularly relevant after the Sept. 11 attacks, and a
theme Plymouth organizers sought to embody in the events of Saturday's
''Home to Thanksgiving.''
The event was scheduled for the Saturday before Thanksgiving when town
leaders learned that the annual Thanksgiving parade would not be held
this year. Parade organizers complained of a lack of local support.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the town added a candlelight
vigil to the day, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Town church bells will ring, the
high school band will play, and the eloquent Gomes will frame some words
on ''Hope and Thanksgiving.''
Hope and Thanksgiving figure in the ''Autumn Leaves'' concert too. In
lines written by the late Unitarian Universalist minister Raymond
Baughan, the speaker asks the falling leaves, ''Teach me to turn/ My
sullen sense toward marvel.''
The second part of the concert will include a round to be taught the
audience and sung in four languages - English, Hebrew, Latin, and German
- and several versions of the 23d Psalm. A chorus member will recite the
psalm, and the chorus will sing the Bobby McFerrin version. It will also
include a Native American song and a reading from a famous Shawnee
The concept of learning from the seasons to deal with the ups and downs
of life underlies the chorus's name. In Greek mythology, Persephone is
the daughter of Earth goddess Demeter. Her abduction by the god of the
underworld ultimately brings about the seasons, after Demeter freezes
the earth in a permanent winter. In a deal brokered on Mount Olympus,
Persephone is permitted to return to her mother, but must spend four
months each year underground. Persephone's Daughters hopes to nourish
the souls of listeners by teaching the genuinely spiritual importance of
going with the flow.
The proceeds of the concert will go to the town's No Place for Hate
Committee, created last year to promote tolerance and diversity.
Tickets, $10 for adults; $5 for seniors, students, and children, will be
available at the door.
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