Digging for roots is rewarding not just for gardeners.
Much of what we value in music too has its roots in a past that is often obscure, but whose recovery can enrich both our ears and minds.
In the case of African-American music, we think we know the terrain: the Blues, Gospel, Jazz. But behind all that was the earlier, more original tradition of the slave era, only a step or two removed from the musical heritage of West Africa and the Caribbean. This is the cultural soil that California’s Linda Tillery has been exploringing for over 40 years.
Her work has been partly scholarly – reviewing documents, researching archival recordings, working as a historian. More importantly, however, she has succeeded in bringing the music back into live performance.
Her Cultural Heritage Choir presents a live concert at ArtSpring on Thursday, November 14 at 7:30pm.
The word “choir” is a little unusual in this context. The ensemble actually consists of four a cappella singers and a percussionist. Since its origins in 1992, the group has performed the dynamic rhythms and sparkling energy of this original music on stages across North America.
Their first recording in 1997 in collaboration with Taj Mahal and Eric Bibb received a Grammy nomination, and from then on their reputation in the roots music world has grown steadily. Their second recording "Hippity Hop", received a Parents Choice Award in 2000, and their third "Say Yo’ Business” was nominated for a California Music Award in 2003. Two more acclaimed recordings have followed in 2010 and 2012.
“Rediscovering the past is deeply satisfying,” says ArtSpring Artistic Director George Sipos. “Two weeks ago we heard music from 17th century Poland from a time when the solo voice emerged from choral singing and took its first tentative steps toward the cantata and toward opera. Now we have a chance to hear the authentic origins of African music in America. History doesn’t get more exciting than that.”
Linda Tillery & the Cultural Heritage Choir is on a short BC tour, performing also in Courtenay and on Quadra Island. “Once again,” says Sipos, “ArtSpring’s ticket prices are most affordable of the participating venues. We want everyone to be able to hear this wonderful music.”
Tickets for the November 14 show are available from the ArtSpring Ticket Centre 537-2102 or online at tickets.artspring.ca.