by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The incomparable Evelyn Harris is scheduled to headline the April 15 Voices Rising show at Washington Hall (153 14th Ave.).
Evelyn Harris has dedicated her voice to giving depth and meaning to an extensive array of musical styles, creating stirring interpretations of African-American traditional and contemporary material, freedom songs from around the world, jazz, pop, rock 'n' roll, gospel, and blues.
'I sing because I have to,' Evelyn told SGN. 'I know no other way to say what is going on in my heart and mind that will foster dialogue and understanding. I never want to put off the public; I want us to know and celebrate how deeply we are connected, no matter our ethnic, racial or religious background.'
'In Seattle, I will be performing a capella. Sounds - not only melodies - will be paramount in my communicating with the audience. It will be a short and sweet set!'
Her 18-year tenure with the internationally acclaimed black women's a capella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock guided her studies as an artist, performer, arranger, and composer. Her compositions include 'State of Emergency' (1988 Grammy nomination), and 'My Lament.' With Sweet Honey, she recorded and co-produced 10 albums on the Warner Brothers, Redwood, and Flying Fish labels.
In regards to her work with Sweet Honey, Evelyn told SGN, 'I felt honored to travel the world with this message of love, coming from the lips of black women for all the peoples of the world. I was loved and adored by an audience that had no idea what I might be like off stage! I was always a student, learning everything I could from Bernice and other mentors and role models I was privileged to meet and work with. I discovered my voice as a songwriter, arranger, composer, collaborator, producer, and manager, and sought ways to further that knowledge through my work.'
Evelyn relocated to the Pioneer Valley in the autumn of 2002. For over three years, she directed the choir at the North Hadley Congregational Church and facilitated writing and singing workshops with teenage mothers through the Springfield, Massachusetts YWCA. With an emphasis on the social, political, and economic conditions of blacks in America, she has taught Introduction to African-American Music at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School, MacDuffie School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Westfield State College, among many others.
Evelyn currently directs The Ku'umba Women's Chorus at the Northampton Community Music Center and uses singing as cognitive therapy with dementia and Alzheimer's patients in several nursing homes in the area.
During the summer, she is a vocal instructor at the Jane Hanson Vocal Music Academy and the Institute for the Musical Arts Rock 'n' Roll Girls Camp. She has enthusiastically shared the stage with The Safari East Jazz Trio, hip-hop performance poet Lenelle Moise, singer-songwriter Pamela Means, pianists Miro Sprague, Jeff D'Antona, Stephen Page, Joel Martin, and Jerry Noble, as well as saxophonist Charles Neville. Earlier collaborations with a diverse spectrum of artists include Odetta, Holly Near, Glory Van Scott, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, June Jordan, Sonia Sanchez, Horace Boyer, Art Steele, Jane Sapp, Zap Mama, and Take 6.
Evelyn tells a story of the struggle for peace and justice through songs that confess the reveries and fears of a people intimately affected by violence and hatred. She is widely respected for the mastery of her craft and her mentorship of young musical talent.
'My life is full with abundant manifestations of good,' she said. 'Singing is my giving back with thanks and praise.'
Voices Rising is an ongoing series of performances by LGBTQ performers of color. Founded in 2007 by artist and activist Storme Webber, Voices Rising has emerged as the leading showcase for Queer performers of color. Past shows have featured performances by standout artists such as Nedra Johnson, D'LO, Mami Watu & Avery R. Young, Okonomode a.k.a. SoulChilde, Christa Bell, Dakota Camacho, and many, many more. Performances are held quarterly at Washington Hall's historic ballroom. Funding for the project is sustained through ticket sales, event sponsorships, grants, and donations.
If you've never been to a Voices Rising show, then you won't want to miss the April 15 event! Joining Evelyn Harris on the show bill is Rosco Kickingstone, Fabiola Romero, Christine Cruz Guiao, and April Nishimura.
For more information about Voices Rising and the artists scheduled to perform, visit the organization online at www.voicesrisingseattle.org.
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