Choruses Promote Social Justice at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2018

Choruses Promote Social Justice at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2018

The UCF Women’s Chorus, Men’s Ensemble, University Chorus, and Chamber Singers will treat guests to music with a message at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2018. Their concert, entitled “Journey to Justice (Singing the Journey),” addresses social inequalities, prejudice, and discrimination, but also hopefulness and the potential for change.

The performance is on Sunday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The program contains musical pieces representing specific instances of unfairness in society. “The Hungry Angels,” performed by the Chamber Singers, refers to world hunger, while their piece “Motherless Child” concerns childhood orphancy. Similarly, the Women’s Chorus will sing their composition “But a Flint Holds Fire,” a reference to the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

“Singers are storytellers, and each of these pieces tells its own little story,” said David L. Brunner, director of choral activities and conductor of the Women’s Chorus and Men’s Ensemble. Each choir performs separately until the finale, when approximately 135 students come together and sing “Make Them Hear From You” and “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” Both pieces symbolize the wish for a better future.

Audio recordings and readings from the 1960s about injustice, civil rights, war and peace are interspersed throughout the choral performance, ranging from the music of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Sam Cooke to the words of Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King Jr. These songs, poems, and speeches inspired generations of activists and touch on issues that still affect people to this day, including the UCF choir students themselves.

Brunner surveyed his students anonymously to learn what types of injustice or discrimination they have experienced in their lives. The three forms that appeared most frequently were racism, homophobia, and sexism. To these students, the message of their upcoming performance is a personal one.

Adding to the ambiance of the concert, chorus members plan to forego their typical formal attire. “The idea behind it is that we’re just like you, we have the same issues and face the same prejudices that you have,” said Brunner. “By wearing casual clothes, we’re removing the barrier of concert etiquette and formality to convey our message better and really connect with the audience.” Audience members are asked to show respect for the message by refraining from applause until the show ends.

As diverse as the concert’s subject matter is its music. A variety of genres including jazz, country, international, ragtime, and classical are incorporated into the program, with all its songs meant to encourage audience members to ponder situations of injustice. “Singing doesn’t directly cause social change, but it can bring awareness or touch people in ways that a headline in a newspaper might not. Perhaps the audience will be more compelled to speak out and act because of that,” said Brunner.

UCF Celebrates the Arts is an annual showcase featuring eight days of visual and performing arts projects created by students. The pieces chosen for the event represent the arts’ role in creativity, communication, and challenging the status quo across all disciplines. Through its free or low-cost productions, many of which transcend artistry and promote social issues, the celebration aims to have a positive cultural impact on the Central Florida community and beyond.

Experience “Journey to Justice (Singing the Journey)” at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2018, which runs from April 6-14 at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are required for all events. To reserve free tickets to the concert and view the full program guide, visit arts.ucf.edu/schedule.