Lift Ev'ry Voice Festival
|Country and Region||United States — Massachusetts|
|Type of Festival||Dance, Drama, Literary, Music|
|Location of Festival||Towns throughout Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA|
|Festival Contact Information|
Lift Ev’ry Voice is an arts and heritage festival that celebrates African-American history, culture and traditions throughout the US. The events that take place in towns throughout Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts involve numerous arts organizations: Barrington Stage Company, the Berkshire Museum, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Chesterwood, the Clark Art Institute, the Colonial Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Mass MoCA, Tanglewood, and other renowned cultural venues in the Berkshires.
|Festival Dates||June 19 - July 23, 2011|
The first edition of the festival takes place in summer 2011. The events celebrate African-American culture and heritage in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Entitled Lift Ev’ry Voice, after the beloved “black national anthem” Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing by James Weldon Johnson, once a summer resident of the Berkshires.
The African-American community of the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts has a rich and impressive history, from the Revolutionary War heros to NASA astronauts. Best known as the birthplace of W.E.B. DuBois, the Berkshires were also home to Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, the first slave to successfully sue for freedom, Reverend Samuel Harrison, chaplain to the acclaimed 54th regiment in the Civil War who successfully fought for equal pay for black soldiers, Jazz Age photographer James Van Der Zee, and writer James Weldon Johnson, among many others. The cultural institutions of the Berkshires have led the way in presenting African-American artists and performers from Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, built on the site of an Underground Railroad station, to the Lenox School of Jazz at the Music Inn in the 1950s. African-American history in the Berkshire region can be explored through self-guided tours along all or part of the Upper Housatonic Valley African-American Heritage Trail, in the book African-American Heritage of the Upper Housatonic Valley, or by visiting http://www.africanamericantrail.org.
Opening Day Celebrations 2011:
- Sunday, June 19
- The Lift Ev’ry Voice festival kicks off on Sunday, June 19th with a free community Juneteenth celebration, the first ever in the Berkshires, and an evening performance of Craig Harris’ God’s Trombones at the Colonial Theatre, both in downtown Pittsfield, the largest city in Berkshire County. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and is recognized as a legal holiday in 37 states. Former Sweet Honey in the Rock vocalist Evelyn Harris will perform, along with the Youth Alive Step Dance & Drum Team, gospel singer Lamar Robinson, world music performer Appollo Nzima, and others. Food and other vendors plus family activities will also be featured at the outdoor event, which will be held on the grounds of the Polish Community Club at the corner of Center and Linden Streets from 12 noon to 5pm on Sunday, June 19th, rain or shine. Lift Ev’ry Voice’s opening day continues with an extraordinary lineup of trombone players performing at the Colonial Theatre in Craig Harris’ rollicking opus God’s Trombones, inspired by James Weldon Johnson’s celebrated book,God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, published in 1927. Both the book and the composition were created in large part in the Berkshires, the latter in residencies at Mass MoCA and Williams College. God’s Trombones will be performed at 7pm at the Colonial Theatre, located at 111 South Street in downtown Pittsfield. Tickets are $10-$25 with a special family ticket available for two adults and up to 3 children for $65. Advance tickets are recommended and may be purchased online at http://www.thecolonialtheatre.org or by calling 413-997-4444.
Other highlights of festival:
- Wednesday, June 22
- Kickoff of the Berkshire County Massachusetts 54th infantry trail and book at Chesterwood
- Saturday, June 25
- Earth, Wind & Fire at Tanglewood
- Saturday, July 2
- Youth & Family Hip Hop Dance Party at Mass MoCA
- Thursday, July 7
- Pearl Primus talk & performance at Jacob’s Pillow
- Friday, July 8
- A tribute to the Negro Leagues at Wahconah Baseball Park
- Saturday, July 9
- A tribute to the African-American elders of the Berkshires at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
- Saturday, July 16
- Aint I a Woman, a community musical about African-American women leaders in history in Great Barrington
- Sunday, July 17
- A day with topiary artist Pearl Fryar at the Mount
- Friday, July 22
- Hip hop artist Talib Kweli at the Colonial Theatre
- For more information on all of these events and many more can be found online at http://www.liftevryvoice.com.