Now More than Ever…Inspiration from the Arts

Now More than Ever…Inspiration from the Arts

Music and dance have explored and expressed every facet of human life – deep joys, sorrows, struggles and triumphs – ever since there has been human life on this planet. Not a luxury, but rich re-Sourcing in the most challenging as well as the most ebullient of times.

I continue to find great joy and aliveness, even inspiration from the weekly and generous offerings of the Now, More Than Ever playlist curated by Jeremy Geffen, Artistic Director of Cal Performances at the University of California – Berkeley.

The arts have always played—and will continue to play—a vital role in helping people face adversity. They have offered consolation, affirmation, and hope, and they have even challenged us, on occasion, to live up to our fullest promise and potential as human beings. When we emerge from this current health crisis, the arts will lead a way forward as we consider both what has happened and what lies ahead.

Especially so now, as more and more people come to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement as the historic, profound, and entirely necessary social justice initiative its earlier supporters have always known it to be. I believe in the performing arts’ immense potential to act as an agent for the kind of progress to which we aspire. And for inspiration, we need look no further than the men and women who so regularly populate our stages. I hope that, in some small way, this Now, More Than Ever series can advocate for those changes, by honoring and celebrating the work of gifted performers and creators who, through their public statements and the success of their careers, have advanced the cause of freedom and social justice.

– Jeremy Geffen

You can access all 22 issues of the entire playlist here (and subscribe to receive them yourself, free). The diversity of musical styles, nationalities and ethnicities of the musicians, the electrifying brilliance of the performances can blow you away, and put you back together again.

I’m highlighting Issue 16, here, the week of June 1, posted in immediate response to the murder of George Floyd. 

In times of upheaval, we have always found it helpful—indeed, necessary—to come together and raise our voices in song. Songs that express our anger, sorrow, and pain. Songs that give voice to our deepest fears and most profound hopes. Songs with the power to change minds, inspire action, and influence the future.

– Jeremy Geffen

Marian Anderson, who in 1939—and because of her race—was barred from performing before an integrated audience in Washington, DC, but found herself on Easter Sunday, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing “America” (“My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”) before more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. (The event had come about following direct intervention by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, providing a notable example of the importance of having allies in a great struggle.)

Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit about lynchings in the south,

Ray Charles singing the iconic anthem of freedom Lift Every Voice and Sing,

Sweet Honey in the Rock singing a stunning African “Ella’s Song”    

Gabriel Kahane’s “Empire Liquor Mart that recounts the story of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African American girl shot dead while buying orange juice in South Central Los Angeles, just 13 days after the videotaped beating of Rodney King. 

Hugh Masekela’s Bring Back Nelson Mandela, Bring Him Back Home to Soweto helped return Nelson Mandela to South Africa

Jessye Norman singing the poignant freedom song by Richard Strauss, Morgen.

You can access the complete playlist of Issue 16 here.

Shared in the hope that they will both encourage reflection and inspire action. Especially during troubled times, the performing arts reflect our most fervent aspirations, creating, from the seeds of discord, a challenge to be better human beings.

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