‘Sing Me A Dream: Music And Protest’

Composer Benny Russell
Composer Benny Russell


Free concert is part of Hays-Heighe House’s ‘Voices of Change’ exhibit


“Sing Me a Dream: Music and Protest,” an original, four-movement suite for a 17-piece orchestra, will be performed Saturday, February 27, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Joppa Hall Recital Hall #1 at Harford Community College.


Composed by Benny Russell, Harford Community College adjunct music faculty and a jazz composer and musician, “Sing Me a Dream” features the Morgan State University Jazz Ensemble and spoken texts from Langston Hughes, Ossie Davis and James Weldon Johnson.


“Sing Me a Dream” is one of the featured programs accompanying the Hays-Heighe House’s “Voices of Change: Social Protest Through the Arts and Humanities,” a locally developed exhibit to stimulate thought and discussion about the ways that music, literature and visual arts have intersected with moments of social protest in the United States in the modern era. It is organized around four themes: war and peace, labor and economic justice, civil and human rights, and environmental issues. The exhibit runs now through April 22.


The February concert draws upon major texts from African American literature. Movement I features “The Weary Blues,” with text by Langston Hughes and music by Benny Russell. Movement II is titled “Prayers for Malcolm,” with text by Ossie Davis, music by James Spaulding and arrangement by Benny Russell. “Passing,” with text by Langston Hughes and music by Benny Russell, is Movement III. The fourth and final Movement is titled “God’s Trombones,” with text by James Weldon Johnson and music by Benny Russell.


The Morgan State University Jazz Ensemble was selected to perform in this concert because of the ensemble’s reputation and renown of its director, Melvin N. Miles.


Composer Russell is known nationally for his accomplishments as a jazz musician. A short list of his compositions include “Langston Hughes: The Soul of His Words,” performed at the Museum of Natural History and as an expanded five-movement suite at St. Francis College, both in New York; a jazz score for “Cold Keener,” Zora Neale Hurston’s play at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore; “The Darfur Chronicles” at the Bronx Arts Ensemble; and “Just Before the Autumn,” an overture performed by the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra.


Russell’s career has included directing the New York Association Jazz Orchestra, chairing the jazz division at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and the jazz department at the Maryland Conservatory of Music, and founding Rock Spring Jazz Academy in Harford County.

Tickets to the concert are free of charge but seating is limited. Tickets must be reserved in advance by visiting tickets.harford.edu, calling 443-412-2211 or visiting the box office in the Chesapeake Center lobby Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Sing Me a Dream” was assisted by support from the Maryland State Arts Council and through the Harford County Cultural Arts Board. In addition to the Hays-Heighe House, several departments within Harford Community College provided support including Cultural Events and Performing Arts, Humanities Division, Library, Marketing Department, Office of Student Affairs, Soar2Success program and Visual, Performing and Applied Arts Division.

The “Voices of Change” exhibit and programming were made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition and the programming do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Maryland Humanities Council.

For more information, visit www.harford.edu or call 443-412-2539.

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