Culture and Connection – The Juneteenth production celebrates modern and traditional African American performance – Orange County Register

With the split seemingly on the rise in Orange County, Debora Wondercheck said she wants to bring members of the Orange County community together through celebrations and performances – the result is Gospel Voices of Orange County on Sunday, in honor of Juneteenth.

While it is a commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved blacks, Juneteenth is also a celebration of black culture and traditions. And so is the production that Wondercheck helped organize.

Gospel Voices of Orange County is an artistic commemoration of historical and contemporary African American music, instrumentals and dance featuring more than 100 artists from Orange County and in addition to Chapman University’s Musco Center of Arts. The event will showcase traditional spirituals – music sung by African Americans during slavery – a string orchestra, choir, jazz group and original choreography.

“I just thought it was time to have something where we can come together to celebrate each other and be allies, to say ‘We are here for each other’, instead of what is separating our own. nation, “Wondercheck said.

The show was a way to create community, he added, and “eradicate this nonsense”.

Wondercheck said he hopes those who may not be familiar with African American history and culture will learn the meaning of the gospel.

“We called it Gospel Voices (of OC) because the church for African Americans, especially our ancestors, was the only place we had a voice,” he said.

He also wants to give people a “deeper understanding of how broad and brilliant African American culture is,” he added, fighting the notion that “it’s just one-sided or we just do one thing.”

The production includes classical church music and hip-hop, as well as tap dance, contemporary and African. Sonya Griffin, Karen Allen Reed and Darlene Futro, famous in the black churches of Orange County for “solid gospel music,” Wondercheck said, helped lead the choir. Lisa Terry, conducting the orchestra, worked with Lanny Hartley to arrange the music in alignment with the choir dancers and singers.

As president and CEO of the Arts and Learning Conservatory – an OC organization that provides opportunities in the arts to more than 1,000 children every year – Wondercheck has also involved several young people in the production, giving them the opportunity to perform alongside adults and professionals.

Imani Harris, the show’s choreographer, said she blended dance genres with a “new generation” twist. She paid close attention to the narration of the spoken words accompanying the narrative and choreography of the performance, she added.

“It was very important that I understand: ‘What are we trying to say in this dance? What are we trying to represent? ‘”She said. “So when it’s time to choreograph, I come from your heart, from your experience, not just from this independent situation.”

That message, Harris said, conveys African American history through the medium of dance.

“You hear the singers, you hear the musicians, but you see the dancers, the expression and the struggle,” he said.

Through these means of expression, Wondercheck ultimately said he hopes people “feel part of the family” and have been included in the celebration.

“In our culture, it’s not about eliminating or excluding people,” Wondercheck said. “We are very welcoming people and I want people to feel welcomed and embraced in our experience and celebrate it with us.”

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