“We are all one in song,” said Duane Foster, which is the idea behind Sunday’s #WithNormandy: A Concert for Peace and Unity.
The Normandy High School Choir, directed by fine arts teacher Foster, will participate in the concert at the school, along with an all-star cast of performers that includes Denyce Graves, Christine Brewer, Julia Bullock, Erika Johnson, Derrell Acon and Jermaine Smith.
“In the days after all the violence began in Ferguson, Gene (Dobbs Bradford) and I were feeling like we wanted to do something that could be helpful to our community and could help tell a different kind of story about our community and what our community wants to be,” said Timothy O’Leary, general director of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. “We started right away contacting artists, and as we did, we found that there was this outpouring of interest.”
“St. Louis needs a healing when it comes to understand race relations, understanding equality and education, and I think music is going to be that healer,” Foster said.
#WithNormandy follows Brian Owens’ #HealFerguson concert. It also was prompted by the death of Michael Brown, who graduated from Normandy High School in June.
“One of the most connecting pieces of any race, culture is music,” Smith said. “For the arts to step in in the situation that’s going on now is phenomenal. You can speak with any race, any community, any culture musically.”
Smith, who has performed in “Porgy and Bess” around the world, will perform “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from the opera.
“I think it’s going to be such an inspirational concert because it deals with all different genres of music, so whatever you think you like or don’t like, we’re going to tap into it and to inspire you in a way to understand that it is still possible to smile, even in times like this,” Smith said.
In addition to directing the chorus, Foster will perform a song from “Ragtime,” “Make Them Hear You.”
“Word for word, the song is appropriate for this event,” said Foster, a Normandy alum who was part of the original “Ragtime” company on Broadway. “With everything that’s going on with this Ferguson situation and with Normandy and again with equality of education, it’s a charge that’s telling the youth to go out and make people hear you. And not necessarily through violent protest and not through rioting, but there are other ways of hearing.”
Doors open for #WithNormandy at 4 p.m. Sunday; performances start at 4:30 p.m. The concert is free; donations will be collected for the Friends of Normandy Scholarship Foundation.
“I think we can really make a difference there — that’s the goal,” O’Leary said. “It’s a good goal to come together and to be unified and to make a new story about our community, but most importantly we should be supporting the young people in the community this way.”
#WithNormandy: A Concert for Peace and Unity
- When: 4-6 p.m. Sept. 28, 2014
- Where: Viking Hall, Normandy High School, 6701 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Louis
- Cost: Free
- More information