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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Two Don't Mix

Now this is going just a little too far. You just cant mix "Rap" and "Gregorian Cant". I think someone needs to tell them they are so far off course. Read the article from The Remnant News

Prisoners rap for redemption

Singers combine rhythm with Gregorian chants


Kansan Staff Writer

The world premiere of an innovative musical piece, performed by prison inmates, will combine modern rap with classical Gregorian chants.

The "Rap of Redemption" will be performed at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Blessed Sacrament Church, 2203 Parallel, in Kansas City, Kan. The rap/chant performance is part of "How Can I Keep from Singing," will also be performed at 4 p.m., Jan 22 at First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence. The powerful rap message of the "Rap of Redemption," deals with a prison inmate's pain and regret for the damage caused to others.

The performance comes from the heart of the entertainers, who are themselves, inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility's East Unit - the minimum-security unit where the performing inmates are housed.

The lyrics of the "Rap of Redemption" were created by a maximum-security inmate, Essex Sims, at Lansing Correctional Facility, with the arrangements done by the East Hill Singer's conductor, Elvera Voth. The idea of mixing the chants of the third century with modern rap was Voth's.

"I wish I'd never hurt you, hurt you," Sim's lyrical refrain proclaims.

The Gregorian chants are the "Kyrie" and the "Angus Dei." The text of the "Kyrie" means "Lord have mercy," and the text of the "Agnus Dei" says "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us."

"Essex was written up in the Lawrence Journal World as being a rapper," Voth said. "He is a talented poet. I thought it would be interesting to combine this latest form of musical expression with the earliest form of musical chants from the third century, so while he is rapping his remorse, we are singing, underneath, very softly, a Gregorian chant."

Many of the inmates had never listened to Gregorian chants before this experience.

"It has become a favorite thing to sing," Voth said. "It has taken a hold of them. Part of what we do is sacred music and part is not. This is not a church concert. We have a large variation of music. For every piece that we do, an inmate gets up and talks about his life and where he is now. It allows the congregation to see these men as individuals. I have gotten calls from all over the country from people who are really interested in seeing it.

"We sing in order to give the men a valuable experience," she said. "We sing in English, Italian, Russian, traditional folk tunes, classical choral works and rap. It is all about education towards the larger world that most of these men have not had a chance to be part of."

The East Hill Singers group is a program of Arts in Prison, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by Voth, a Kansas native who is known nationwide and is in frequent demand as a guest conductor and workshop presenter. She has won the coveted Governor's Arts Award in two states, Kansas and Alaska, where she founded several arts organizations, including the Anchorage Opera. She is the subject of an Emmy winning documentary film recently produced by Sunflower Journeys of public television station, KTWU in Topeka.

The East Hill Singers will celebrate their 10th anniversary and will present four concerts outside the prison walls during 2006.

A few of the inmates have had experience in singing but most have not. Rehearsals have been ongoing for months, and Voth has worked with them to improve their singing talents, teaching them to perform complex choral pieces and to improve their showmanship skills. Voth has kept track with some inmates who have gone on to successful lives after imprisonment, using the confidence they have acquired from this experience.

The mission of Arts in Prison is to provide personal growth opportunities through the arts for the incarcerated and their families. The program sponsors numerous classes in music, drawing, painting, creative writing, poetry, literature, theater and gardening in Kansas prisons. Individuals and grants to the 501c3 organization fund the programs. The Kansas Arts Commission and the National Endowment support it for the Arts.

The KCK concert is presented by the Ladies of Peter Claver from Our Lady and St. Rose Catholic Church and Cure of Arts Catholic Church in Leawood, Kan.

"It is a wonderful tool to help inmates," Voth said. "It benefits them while they are inside and when they get out. A lot have never worked as part of a community before. They learn that everything they do affects the whole community. If they miss rehearsals, the whole chorus will be impacted. They also learn that the instant gratification that they expect in life often has to be worked for long and hard. This is true of a lot of the people who are incarcerated. They don't realize that, to do well at anything can take a long time. It takes three to fourth months to learn one concert. It's a life lesson, and don't we all need it?"

Creating harmony with someone who sings well is better than only creating harmony with someone whose skin is the same color, Voth said.

"That is a real revelation," she said. "Most of all, they learn that in order to like other people, they have to like themselves. Self-esteem is very low among that population. They learn to like themselves by singing in a concert and seeing the joy on the faces of their audience. After one concert, one inmate said he had no idea what it felt like to have a standing ovation. This is especially meaningful when you have been told all your life that you are worth absolutely nothing. With music, we are trying to make better neighbors of these folks, some of whom will eventually get out."

The group has given about 25 concerts outside the wall and has never had any problems with the inmates, who travel with security officers.

On the day of the performance, samples of inmate artwork and writing classes will be on display. Items created by prisoners will be for sale including note cards and frame-able prints.

"Come early because in the past, it gets full fast," said Sister Therese Bangert, one of the coordinators working with the sponsoring churches. "It is a real treat. This is the third time we have sponsored this. It is a gift to receive the beauty of the music that they bring."


At 10:58 PM, Blogger Curmudgeon said...

Horrible, yes. Blasphemy, or at least a sacriledge.

Join us, from whereever you are back ease, to pray the rosary in reparation at 4pm Central tomorrow.

Curmudgeon from Kansas City


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