Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ubuntu and The Young Singers of the Palm Beaches

An anthropologist proposed a game to children in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits.
When he told them to run they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

Ubuntu! I am me because of you.

Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu explained:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntuthe essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out: it is for the whole of humanity. A person is a person by and because of other people.

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that real happiness does not come from how much money we have, the size of our house, or the clothes we wear. Real, lasting joy comes from our connection with other people.

That is what Young Singers of the Palm Beaches is about…interconnectedness…without barriers of any kind so that all can come together and create music.

Speaking of human connection…I met Mark Hayes over 25 years ago at a music conference in Wisconsin. It was at that time that I realized, although a world-renowned composer at that time, he was a down to earth, humble man. Years later I went to study composition with him for a few days in Kansas City, MS…his hometown. And last year, in deciding whom to commission a work for the Young Singers, I thought of Mark. I contacted him and he agreed to write a piece for us. You have to understand, Mark is a very busy man. As you have read his bio, he has over 850 choral pieces in print as well as vocal solo books and many piano solos and collections. He is conducting workshops throughout the world and will be conducting at Avery Fischer Hall at the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, to name a few.

When I contacted him, I asked him to write a celebratory piece for our 10th anniversary. I had no text in mind. About a month later, I read this wonderful article about the tradition of Ubuntu. I contacted him about writing a piece with that theme and he stated that he had just discussed this same concept of Ubuntu with a friend that very week. He said it was providential. I agree!
We were honored to have Mark attend the premiere of Ubuntu at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. Mark spoke to our singers about his work on the piece and the importance of the concept of Ubuntu and singing one!
With the help of our choreographer, Sonja Kelly, Ubuntu opened and closed our 10th anniversary concert with 340 singers, dancers in bright outfits and streamers, joyous singers and a feeling of joy...being connected to others through song.

As stated by Mark on his intro page to the octavo, “To reach our full potential, we must stay connected to our fellow humans. Embrace the wisdom of ubuntu and let the power of our combined voices change the world.”

Thank you, Mark for continuing to write such beautiful, exciting and inspiring choral music.

D. Shawn Berry is Co-Founder, Artistic Director and Lead Conductor for the Young Singers of Palm Beaches. Under his supervision the organization has grown to 6 choirs with over 300 singers ranging in ages from 8 to 18 years old. The choirs participated in the 2006 Mozart Festival in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, Boston in 2005, at the Lincoln Center in New York City in 2007, and Walt Disney World Children in Harmony Choral Festival.

He graduated with honors from Marshall University in Huntington, WV, where he earned his BA and MA in Music Education. He worked in the public schools for 24 years in the areas of vocal and instrumental music with all grade levels.

While directing choirs in the public schools, Mr. Berry worked as the Director of Vocal Music at the nationally recognized Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. While at Bak his choruses were selected to perform at the American Choral Directors National Convention in New York City, The Kennedy Center Festival of Gold, the American Choral Directors Southern Division Convention, as well as recording for the Silver Burdette Middle School Music Textbook Series. He has conducted honor and all-county choirs in Florida, West Virginia and North Carolina.

He was the recipient of the 2011 Clyde Fyfe Award performing artist award from the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. He is an active composer and arranger and has numerous publications with a variety of publishing houses. His professional affiliations are ASCAP and ACDA. His compositions have been performed by choir at local levels and by choirs at ACDA National and by All State Choirs.

In addition to Young Singers, Mr. Berry is Manager of Arts and Cultural Education for the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County and has serves as pianist for the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches for 22 years. He is honored to be an accompanist for the Shawnee Press 75 year celebration at Carnegie Hall, Feb. 17, 2014.

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