Songs of Slavery and Emancipation
The big news is that, in June, Songs of Slavery and Emancipation was awarded a grant by the city of Schaffhausen. The project was launched two years ago (see: February 2015 news and headway was made last year but the lack of funds for research, travel and related expenses, slowed our progress considerably. Now, we have enough to complete the three main tasks we set ourselves at the outset:

1. assemble the repertoire
2. organize the musicians
3. make the recording

To this list can be added two more important elements, namely, the publication of a book containing all the lyrics and music included in the recording as well as the making of a documentary film. Making a film was not in the original plan but under the direction of world-renowned photographer, Reto Camenisch, we will now undertake the making of a feature-length documentary that not only tells the story behind Songs of Slavery and Emancipation but records a concert we plan to hold to celebrate the publication of the book and audio recordings.

Our projected schedule:

1. complete the assembly of the repertoire including words and musical accompaniment by January 1, 2018
2. assemble the various musicians who will be performing, finalize musical arrangements and rehearsals by mid-2018
3. begin recording approximately one year from now (July 14, 2018)

This is only a projection and may be modified considerably depending on the schedules of the many other people who will be involved. Furthermore, there are other institutions that have to be considered. As we’ve reported earlier, we have the support of Berklee College of Music in Boston. We will be collaborating with instructors and students at Berklee in the realization of this project. Only recently, we have added another institution to our effort.

The National Abolition Hall of Fame-Peterboro, New York

Early this year we were contacted by a representative of this organization who had read about our project. Originally, they only inquired as to songs we might provide. We arranged a visit to Peterboro and the historic Presbyterian Church that now houses a most impressive exhibit. It became immediately apparent that we needed to coordinate our activities with this organization since so many of the songs we will include are abolitionist songs, some composed in the vicinity of Peterboro, itself. Furthermore, the ongoing educational work of the National Abolition Hall of Fame is something we hope to contribute to. Indeed, our project has already been given a hearty boost simply by finding out that there already exists a means for disseminating the materials we assemble. We urge everyone to visit the following websites:


The Film

Making a film is a tall order. Adding it to our already-existing project was not an easy decision. The costs of film making are much higher than those of writing books or making audio recordings. Furthermore, we have little experience making or distributing film, whereas, we do have the experience of the Songs of Freedom project to guide our work making a book and audio cds. But when Reto Camenisch expressed interest and, more importantly, offered a plan for making the film, we became increasingly enthusiastic. We therefore resolved to make this happen because the benefits of using a film to more broadly disseminate Songs of Slavery and Emancipation greatly outweigh whatever the costs may be. Furthermore, with proper organization, there is no reason the making of a film should in any way inhibit the fundamental task of assembling the songs, recording and publishing them. Indeed, the filming of performance should be an inspiring example of what we hope this project can achieve, namely, the popularization of a message still relevant today: to struggle against racism and slavery in any form, as well as in support of every contemporary effort directed towards the emancipation of humanity.