The Halalisa Singers, Boston’s world music vocal ensemble, present Best of the Halalisa Singers: Favorites from 25 Years of Singing on Saturday & Sunday, April 7-8 in Lexington and Reading
Artistic director Mary Cunningham leads the Boston area vocal group in a diverse program of international music
The Halalisa Singers under the direction of Artistic Director Mary Cunningham reprise highlights from their extensive repertoire in Best of The Halalisa Singers: Favorites from 25 Years of Singing. The group’s 30 singers hail from Arlington, Ayer, Boston, Chelmsford, Lexington, Lincoln, Lowell, Maynard, Medford, Newton, Reading, Sudbury, Watertown, West Roxbury, Winchester, and Woburn. They will be accompanied by percussionist Bertram Lehmann and pianist Trevor Berens.
Tickets are $20, $15 advance.
Saturday, April 7, 8 p.m. at Follen Church, 755 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington.
Sunday, April 8, 3 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, 239 Woburn St., Reading.
The group’s name, Halalisa, is taken from a Zulu word meaning celebration, and reflects the ensemble’s mission to deliver music that uplifts, energizes, comforts, and brings joy.
According to Artistic Director Cunningham, vocalizing is an international tool for human synergy. “In every culture of the world, singing together has served as a means to connect people spiritually and communally.” She adds that it can also help unite disparate groups and plays an important role in our increasingly diverse society. “Music brings us together through common experience of heart and mind, bridges what divides us, and unites us in common purpose. Through the support of community we can go out and build a better world.”
Among the pieces to be performed are Eric Whitacre’s luscious “Seal Lullaby,” Nick Page’s lively arrangement of “Hamishar Asar,” Joan Szymko’s African-influenced “It Takes a Village,” and Paul Halley’s monumental “Freedom Trilogy,” a piece that weaves Western classical music, popular South African songs, and “Amazing Grace” in a tour de force of choral power. “Abun D’bash’maiyo” presents a gorgeous setting of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. The Macedonian “Sto Mi e Milo” offers the unparalleled rhythmic joy of Balkan music, while Morten Lauridsen’s choral classic “Sure on This Shining Night” overflows with lush, exquisite harmonies.
Spirituals have long been a Halalisa staple, and the group brings back some of its most crowd pleasing with “Home in d’Rock,” “Lord, I Know I Been Changed,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and Sweet Honey in the Rock’s poignant and powerful “Ella’s Song.”
Comic relief comes in the form of the Irish song “Rakes of Mallow,” about the cads and rascals from the town of Mallow in County Cork. The Japanese round “Hotaru Koi” invites smiles with its precise and delicate homage to the firefly. The group goes south of the border with a rousing rendition of the Cuban favorite “Guantanamera.”
The wide array of styles, moods, and emotional experiences is typical of Halalisa concerts. It’s a variety that helps convey the richness of human life around the globe. “Come for the experience of exciting music, filled with songs and dances from around the world. Superb soloists, too,” says Cunningham. “And, of course, extensive percussion!”
Providing the scintillating rhythms is Bertram Lehmann, an accomplished percussionist who’s performed internationally in venues including Lincoln Center and Symphony Hall. Pianist and composer Trevor Berens, the group’s crackerjack accompanist, brings his mad keyboard skills to challenging piano parts that enhance the singing.
Cunningham directs choral groups, plays flute, and teaches locally, but finds working with Halalisa to be a unique experience. “The Halalisa Singers are an ensemble of lively, open, talented, welcoming and enthusiastic singers who love to make music together,” she says.