To my surprise and complete delight, I am a member of the choir for Seattle's Black Nativity, the African-American Christmas musical produced by Intiman Theatre! There will be 20 performances at the 1,400 seat Moore Theater from December 10th - December 26th 2010. The book for the show was written by Langston Hughes, the performance is directed by Jacqueline Moscou, choreography is by Donald Byrd, and music direction is by Pastor Patrinell Wright. The description on the Intiman web site says: "Be one of the first to sing, dance, clap, stomp and celebrate the magic of Christmas with BLACK NATIVITY in its new home (the Moore Theater). With gospel favorites and holiday classics, BLACK NATIVITY will move your spirit and inspire your heart. Featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes, the beauty of gravity-defying dancers, the voices of Pastor Patrinell Wright and her choir of gospel singers, and that rockin‚Äô live band!"
Why am I surprised? Well, because this marks the first time I have been in a choir for 43 years -- since I opted out of church and the choir in my little Baptist church way back in 1967. I was 17 years old then, and was rapidly losing faith in everything I had believed. I was deeply disillusioned by the war in Vietnam and opposed to the tremendous and tragic waste of that war. And I was distressed by racial injustice, poverty, and oppression. My religious faith was a casualty of my general disillusionment, as I threw myself into working for civil rights and peace.
Now, decades later, I am coming back to the faith of my childhood, but I am finding that my faith is transformed beyond what I could imagine back in the 1960s. For me, faith is all about working for peace in the world and finding peace inside myself. Faith is about finding joy in the midst of sorrow and celebrating the eruption of hope from despair. Faith is about loving God and loving one's neighbor as oneself--and using faith to transform the world and myself in the image of a loving God. The music of Black Nativity--a creation of the black American experience shaped by slavery, segregation, oppression, and racial oppression--is nonetheless full of this hope and freedom and joy. In every song we sing in the Black Nativity choir, I am returned to that feeling of being deep connected, that feeling of homecoming I experienced as a child when I sang gospel songs. I am so grateful to music director Pat Wright, Jackie Mouscou, and all the members of the choir for helping me rediscover that joy!