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Ubuntu choir brings African repertoire to Common Ground on the Hill

Eileen Carson, director of Footworks, sings along with the Ubuntu Community Choir during a practice for a performance at Common Ground in Westminster Thursday, July 4.
Eileen Carson, director of Footworks, sings along with the Ubuntu Community Choir during a practice for a performance at Common Ground in Westminster Thursday, July 4.(JOSH SINN/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Baker Chapel on McDaniel College's campus was filled with sounds of singing and marching as the Ubuntu Community Choir class began another lesson.
The group, made up of people of all ages, marched as they sang "Breathe In, Breathe Out," a song by Sarah Dan Jones that was styled to have a four-part harmony.
Director Elizabeth Melvin first taught the group the bass part, then followed with tenor, alto and soprano. As the group sang together, she encouraged people to switch between the different parts.
The Ubuntu course is one of the classes in Common Ground on the Hill, an annual event at McDaniel.
Ubuntu is a Zulu word meaning "I am who I am because of who we are," Melvin said.
Ubuntu community choirs are open to everyone, regardless of singing ability, according to the Ubuntu Choirs Network's website.
Melvin is a director of two Ubuntu choirs, LifeSongs Community Choir in Severna Park and Annapolis Morning Song Circle in Annapolis, that are part of the Ubuntu Choirs Network.
With Ubuntu choirs, choir members are arranged by vocal sections, which means new singers are not alone, Melvin said. She can work with the new singers for a few minutes and then can count on the other members of the section to help the singer, she said.
In the chapel, the group's voices blend together, one of Melvin's favorite parts of working with Ubuntu choirs.
"It's so magical to hear a diverse group of people, all ages, all singing abilities, all ethnic backgrounds, come together and after minutes, blend their voices into a harmony," she said.
Making beautiful music seemingly effortlessly is Celia Kelly's favorite part of taking the class.
The 24-year-old middle school teacher, originally from Westminster, took the class last year and decided to take it again this year.
"And it was my favorite class I took last year," she said.
The class sang three songs at the end of the week concert Friday night. All songs featured a four-part harmony of bass, tenor, alto and soprano.
The group sang "Freedom is in Your Hand," a South African song about former president Nelson Mandela. The majority of the song is sung together, except for the ending, which features a soloist.
The other two songs featured in the concert have a different energy, Melvin told the class. The songs "In Donga Se Jericho," which translates to "the walls of Jericho are falling," Melvin said, and "Walk with Me" are accompanied by a drum and shaker, played by members of the class.
Melvin enjoys teaching African songs, she said.
"I love them with a passion," Melvin said.
"In Donga Se Jericho," a Zulu song from South Africa, is one of Melvin's favorite songs to teach, she said.
"The way that comes together is so perfect," Melvin said.

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