Uptown Saturday Night at the Church of the Epiphany
The Congressional Chorus “Jazz Hot!” performance on March 23 at Church of the Epiphany was unforgettable and exhilarating. The talent was outstanding and the show was only performed once more the next day. It encompassed a broad history of jazz, which is such an important salute to African-Americans contributions to the American genre of jazz.
The dance was beyond great, not contained to the stage but also moving throughout the aisles. And there was a mood in the air of a timeless era. It was sheer enjoyment. Congressional Chorus breathed new life into classics like Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, The Ink Spots, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong.
The chorus is multicultural as well as multitalented. The president, Natalie Grandison, is an African American and very prominent in the show. The choreographer, Davione Gordon, really hit the right chords and movements, capturing not just the steps, but the soul.
The conductor, David Simmons was awesome, watching him directly and lead the musicians, vocalists, and performers was a beautiful dance. The audience clearly loved the brocade jacket of white and blue swirls and beautiful shoes in the same colors.
The pianist, Chris Urquiaga, played clear, smooth, in-sync and flawlessly mellow. If he missed a beat, nary a soul felt it. He is most recently known for his Latin pop album “I’m Here.”
We left the performance wanting more, singing the tunes and dancing down the street.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the show,” said Ken Martin, a Street Sense Media volunteer who went to the show with me. “The majority of the performances were exceedingly well polished. I found the most pleasurable parts to be the harmonic renderings of the Chamber Ensemble on ‘Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?’ and others; the resurrection of Billie Holiday with ‘God Bless the Child’ as performed by vocalist Donna Mitchell-Cox; and dancing in your seats in time with the beats of Fats Waller’s ‘The Joint Is Jumpin’.’ These are but a few of the gems. This was a show like none other.
“It was as advertised: ‘Syncopated, Sophisticated and Sassy!” Martin quipped.
2019 marks the chorus’s 33rd anniversary and the first time ever they are taking one of their shows on the road to Georgia, Birmingham and Selma. In June, they will take audiences down the civil rights trail in “Let Justice Roll… from Montgomery to Selma to Birmingham,” using music to “shed light on the long and painful history of racial inequality in the United States,” according to the group’s website. This is a very respectable and beautiful way to recognize the value of all human beings. Some of the group’s shows are light-hearted, like “Jazz Hot!” But a big part of their mission is social justice. And I applaud them for their upcoming piece about the lynching museum down south and their efforts to recognize the hardship and struggle in our history to attain chainless freedom. It is even more important this year, which is the 400th anniversary of slaves arriving in Virginia. (Not to be confused with the start of the transatlantic slave trade, which stretches back much farther into history.)