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BWLI Students and Committee

Sound of the Spirit

MCLA hosts Margaret A. Hart '35 Gospel Fest


12/01/2009

According to jazz trombonist and composer Craig Harris, the most interesting facet of his music is that he reinvents the familiar for his audiences. A major figure in the jazz movement since 1976, Harris brings God's Trombones to MCLA for this year's Margaret A. Hart '35 Gospel Fest, the next performance in the MCLA Presents! series.

The concert is Sunday, December 6 at 3 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center.

"Using improvisation is key," Harris says of his work. "Every performance will have something introduced that's different from the last performance. That's the beauty of it."

"Having watched this project from its genesis at MASS MoCA eight years ago through its highly successful sold-out runs at Harlem Stages and the world famous Apollo Theater, it is great to have God's Trombones back home in North Adams," says Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA.  "Many know Craig Harris as the ultimate performer, but with God's Trombones, he truly proves his genius as a composer. The music moves you, whether you wanted to be moved or not." 

God's Trombones takes James Weldon's Johnson's seven sermons in verse and transforms them musically. While Johnson compares the compelling and persuasive qualities of a folk preacher's voice to the trombone, Harris takes the work a step further. This brass player makes his trombone speak.

"We just try to deliver a sonic sermon," Harris explains. "It becomes everybody's story as opposed to one person's. It's faith-based as opposed to religious-based. Sound is an extension of spiritual experience. It draws people to a simpler spirituality. Just the sound of the spirit draws people in."

He often deals with icons in creating his music.

"I'm a trombone player and James Weldon Johnson is an icon in America," he explains. "I read his sermons and it just fit," says Harris. "The title was God's Trombones and it was simple. It's a beautiful title."

Harris says his favorite thing about performing is touching and moving people.

"I always hope when we perform that there's a spiritual experience between the audience and ourselves," he says. "It's that interchange between the audience and the musicians. That's so exciting. When you know you really touch someone, that's so rewarding."

Tickets to the December 6 concert are $20 for general admission and free to MCLA and Williams College students. All proceeds benefit the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship.

This event is co-presented by the Williams College Dance Department and MCLA's African, Latino, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) Student Clubs and Organizations.

Voices of Unity, a student choir from MCLA, will open the show.

For tickets, call (413) 662-5204. MCLA Presents! is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.  For more information, call (413) 664-8718, or go to www.mcla.edu/presents.