REVIEW: Boston Children’s Chorus’ free virtual concert “Lift Every Voice: At the Table” ends season on a vibrant and hopeful note

Transitions have been a strong theme over the past year and a half and with that brings forth a tumult of emotions.  Staying true to this season’s theme, “Waves of Change,” the Boston Children’s Chorus depict a vibrant range of emotions through songs of comfort, pressing contemporary issues and dreams of hope of everyone together again in their final concert of the season, Lift Every Voice:  At the Table.

Photo courtesy of Boston Children’s Chorus

Featuring special guest composers Sydney Guillaume, Omar Shahryar, and Layth Sidiq, Lift Every Voice:  At the Table was live streamed for free on Sunday, May 30, but is still available to watch on their Facebook page, and YouTube channel.  The concert also delivers information about their upcoming summer outdoor concert series, We Sing as well as information about the Kiser Scholarship, a memorial scholarship focused on community building and social healing.    

Though each song offers its own message of hope and change, Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, and Brandi Carlile’s uplifting Crowded Table and Omar Shahryar’s The Journey of Feelings portrays the dream of unity while reflecting on uncertainty and the exhaustion of the journey through this pandemic from a child’s point of view.  Crowded Table brings to life the dream and comfort of finally being together again at the table without worry by a roaring fire.  It’s a sweet, joyous, and memorable song that you may never want to end.

The Boston Children’s Chorus Virtual Choir Photo courtesy of the Boston Children’s Chorus

Omar Shahryar’s catchy The Journey of Feelings has its amusing moments, but underneath the beat paints a startlingly perfect expression of what kids are feeling from day-to-day over the course of the pandemic.  It’s an upbeat and urgent song providing insight into intense and overwhelming feelings and yet delivers a precocious sense of maturity expressing hope of life returning to normal.  Omar Shahyar’s There’s a Change A-Coming further enhances this sense of gradual change as they navigate through these uncertain times. 

Moving backdrops and colorful, innovative zoom cinematography enhance each song and it is wonderful to hear from Boston Children’s Chorus members from all levels and their reflections on the world.  It is also a treat to see the chorus outdoors from bridge to beach to city singing together at various times over the concert’s duration, but this is especially wonderful to watch for Mavis Staples’s inspiring Build a Bridge and Layth Sidiq’s spiritual, haunting, and rhythmic Reflection.

John Mayer’s popular song, Waiting on the World to Change brings its signature insightful flair but BCC enhances this poignant song with a moving dedication to emergency workers and glimpses of the state of the world during the pandemic such as the closure of theatres, empty trains, and elbow bumps instead of hugs.  Mayer’s timeless lyrics resonate profoundly while the world is in transition.

Photo courtesy of Boston Children’s Chorus

Delving into multiple languages and a unique, moving open, The Boston Children’s Chorus also reflects hope and uncertainty through the eyes of Migrants with Joel Thompson’s America Will Be as the BCC proclaims, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  Dany Rivera’s charismatic and powerful vocals depict struggle and determination with Gregory Porter’s Running (Refugee Song).

The Boston Children’s Chorus encapsulates distinctly what many are feeling at this time through their evocative vocals and strong messages while leaving this season on a hopeful note. 

Click here for more information on how to join and support the Boston Children’s Chorus, their upcoming events, and digital offerings.

REVIEW: ‘L.A. Dance Project’ closed Celebrity Series of Boston’s season with powerful, message-driven performances

Another spectacular season of Celebrity Series of Boston has come to an end, but not without an intriguing and dynamic finale by L.A. Dance Project, packing a punch with their surprising footwork.  The final performance also featured a free, interactive post-show talk with Ballet Master Sébastien Marcovici.  Celebrity Series of Boston’s 2017-18 season will premiere in October with multi-talented performer Alan Cumming.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Playful, vibrant, and at times haunting, L.A. Dance Project, closed out the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season at the Shubert Theatre from May 19-21. Led by Benjamin Millepied, an acclaimed dancer and choreographer known for choreographing the award-winning film, Black Swan, L.A. Dance Project’s three complex and contemporary dance segments offer its share of joy and conflict while inspiring strong emotions throughout the performance.

L.A. Dance Project

‘Harbor Me’ (Morgan Lugo, Robbie Moore, Aaron Carr) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Accompanied by a haunting oboe featured in a dynamic medley by Park Woojae, Harbor Me by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui delivers a powerful message about human nature and looking past what is on the surface.  Fragments of light stripe the floor as shadows sway ominously on the walls.  Dressed in fatigues and urban clothing in browns, blues and greens, Stephanie Amurao, Julia Eichten, and Lilja Ruriksdottir interact with each other in a ballet-infused variation of unity, imitation, reflection, and conflict.  They move in a fascinating flurry of abstract movement that both celebrates unity as well as emphasize the dark side of human nature as the music intensifies.

LA Dance Project Murder Ballades

Murder Ballades (Nathan Makolandra, Rachelle Rafailedes) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Worn sneakers possess a mighty significance as dancers, dressed youthfully in shirts and shorts, unite in a vigorous and charming performance, the second dance segment of the afternoon.  The lighthearted, violin-infused music possesses a mounting urgency set upon a vibrant water, gold, and black background.  The lithe men and women ensemble, featuring Stephanie Amurao, Aaron Carr, Julia Eichten, Nathan B. Makolandra, Robbie Moore, and Rachel Rafailedes, are blissful and uplifting in smooth, sweeping steps.  They perform pirouettes with zeal, twirl, dip, and hook arms in a display of sweet innocence.  In a particularly humorous moment, as the dancers exited the stage, rambunctious dancer Janie Taylor, carried away by the music, was yanked offstage at the last moment. The performance, entitled Murder Ballades by Justin Peck, is a response to real life, tragic events that children have endured in Aurora and Sandy Hook.  It is a beautiful, spirited tribute to youth, but not without a sense of foreboding.

LA Dance Project Janie Taylor

‘Murder Ballades’ (Janie Taylor) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

The final dance, On the Other Side, is an intriguing compilation by acclaimed artistic director and choreographer Benjamin Millepied.  With an extraordinary emphasis of color by costume designer Alessandro Sartori and bright, multicolored background art by Mark Bradford, On the Other Side taps into a wondrous reverie featuring dancers Stephanie Amurao, Aaron Carr, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Morgan Lugo, Robbie Moore, Rachel Rafailedes, Lilia Ruriksdottir, and Janie Taylor.  Each color in the artwork seems to come to life in each dancer as they spin, twirl, and skip along.  The piano tune, by Philip Glass, also builds to a crescendo as duets perform a mix of traditional ballet and contemporary dance and then gather center stage, as if yanked out of a reverie.

LA Dance Project Rachelle Rafailedes

‘On the Other Side’ (Rachelle Rafailedes) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Click here to learn more about L.A. Dance Project and future performances.  Follow L.A. Project on Facebook.  Celebrity Series of Boston will be back for another stellar season featuring celebrity appearances, dance, comedy, and more.  Click here for more information, subscriptions, tickets, and how to support Celebrity Series of Boston.  Get further updates on Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook.