There is an awesome power in the human voice and when uncommon voices are blended for the common good, they become a 'vocal community' at its best. Masterfully led by Dr. Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, singers and non-singers alike will share the common experience of learning in the oral tradition and singing rhythms, chants, traditional songs from Africa and the Diaspora, and a variety of songs from African American culture including spirituals, ring shouts, hymns, gospels, and songs from the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr Ysaye Maria Barnwell was a member of the African American a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock from 1979 to 2013. She is a prolific composer, writing many of the group's songs, as well as being commissioned to create music for dance, choral, film, and stage productions.
In Feb. 2003, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, DC premiered Truth Pressed to Earth Shall Rise - a choral work in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most recently, she was commissioned by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra and Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT to compose a musical setting for Marilyn Nelson’s epic poem Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem.
Her training as a Sign Language Interpreter led her to facilitated the group’s tradition of including a Sign Language Interpreter in the ensemble.
For the past thirty years Ysaye has spent much of her time off stage working as a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition” has been conducted on three continents, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers, a model of pedagogy for educators, and cultural activists and historians.