BY Bryan Casey
On Feb. 12, the Department of Performing Arts celebrated Black History Month. The event was held in the University Commons Auditorium with a display of music and dance.
The first seminar titled “Journey through the Underground Railroad” consisted of vocal performances from choir groups 4 Heart Harmony, SHUpermen and Blended Hearts.
Each choir performed traditional African American songs, including “At the River,” “Give Me Jesus” and “Go Down Moses.”
Sophomore choir member Ben Bello said, “The music made me feel like I was preaching and traveling at the same time. I felt that every song we sang sent a strong message about the journey of Harriet Tubman.”
The final performance combined the choir’s voices with a movie about Harriet Tubman’s life. The movie displayed Tubman’s voyage to freedom, while honoring many other historically important African American people.
“It was extremely moving, and it conveyed the sentiments of the struggle of slavery,” said President John Petillo.
Following the choir performance, an interactive workshop was led by John Dankwa, a professor of music at Wesleyan University.
Dankwa was born into a royal family in the middle part of Ghana and came to America to pursue his love for music.
“I started drumming on the back of my mother. My dad was a drummer and his twin brother was a horn blower, so I grew up learning traditional music,” he said.
Dankwa brought a variety of Ghanan instruments for the audience to play. He compared the instruments to a family ensemble, the smaller drums being the children and the larger being the father, or the “big daddy.”
Dankwa led the group in a warrior dance song used at festivals, funerals and other special occasions.
“It was really fun to learn about another culture’s music,” said junior Bridget Kelly.
Dankwa stressed the importance of how music can quickly create a community because musicians share the same goal of creating something beautiful. He also discussed how you don’t have to necessarily be a classically trained musician to create music and that the most important aspect of African song is the rhythm or beat.
“Music is something that brings people together, it does not matter your skills, we just all come together to make merry. It helps to build each other. It does not matter if you are a stranger or not; everyone can come together,” said Dankwa.
Students identified this message and agreed with the importance of creating a community.
“He was very inspirational because he brought a different aspect of his culture to Sacred Heart and allowed us to form a community through music,” said junior Giana Rodriquez.
“John’s performance made me realize that other cultures are not so different from each other, in a musical sense it was an amazing experience,” said freshman Jordan Bower.
After the workshop, Dankwa commented on the importance of Black History Month and the necessity to remember those who had an effect on African American history.
“Freedom is something that we don’t have to toy with. If you have freedom, you can find your voice. It is very important that those who were brought here are remembered. And it is important to remember the heroic deeds of those who were brought from Africa,” said Dankwa.
Sacred Heart’s Center for the Performing Arts will be holding two more events during Black History Month. Chelsea Tipton, conductor of the New Haven symphony orchestra, will be coming on Feb. 19 to hold a special orchestra rehearsal and Gospelfest will be held in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on Feb. 22.