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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

PC hits the choir

I don't know what to think of this. The choir director decided our program would be a celebration of gospel music and spirituals. Our choir is basically white folks, with the average age being somewhere over 60, I'd say. There are a lot of churchgoers. (I feel I'm on the younger end of things at 57, though there are a few younger people as well, but very few under 40.) There is one hispanic guy, but zero African Americans. We live in a predominately white city, but there are a few black churches.  

The choir director is a white guy, also nearing retirement age, with a strong record of involvement in some of this music, like knowing personally some of the arrangers and composers, etc... He is our artistic director but he is employed by us. (We are his boss and pay his salary.)  

Half the choir is up in arms about it. Mostly people don't want to be a white choir culturally appropriating this music. That term wasn't used, but that's the basic idea. People don't want to sing in "dialect," etc... We've made no effort to reach out to the community, and the concert in the spring would be basically white people singing to a white audience of our friends and family. (There could be conservative people who don't want to sing black music, but nobody is going to say that. Most of the objections are from some of the relatively young people.  And I heard a new guy, attending his first rehearsal, deciding not to come back at all.) I suggested we keep one of the most musically satisfying pieces but not make the theme of our concert the black experience in the US.

By and large I think that cultural appropriation is a bogus concept. But here it is hard to argue that the situation is awkward. I've noticed before that the choir is white. That in itself is a problem to be addressed.    

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