Is Your House a Safe House? Powerful panel proceeds Kathleen Battle’s uplifting concert @Kimmel

HipCinema is a way station for alternative media. We bring you information about the arts and culture which will hopefully inform and inspire you. Last night we had the great fortune to attend the concert of Kathleen Battle performing Spirituals at the Kimmel Center with pianist Cyrus Chestnut, harpist Riza Printup and the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale. See rehearsal footage here from CBS 3.


The panel discussion which proceeded the performance was moderated by Nick Taliaferro from WURD. Panelists include Cornelia Swinson of Johnson House in Germantown; V. Chapman-Smith of National Archives and Records Administration; Rev. Dr. James Forbes; Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church; and Author and historian Richard Newman of The Library Company of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia was a key point on the Underground Rail Road. It is estimated that over 40,000 enslaved people of African descent made their way to freedom through Philadelphia. The songs of the enslaved people were used as secret codes to let people on the run to freedom know if the way ahead was safe, if there was a river nearby, or if it was time to run. Hundreds of anonymous American’s, black and white, risked their lives to help the fugitive enslaved people. In today’s world, most of us are not in physical bondage, but we are in economic bondage. We are in spiritual bondage. Where are the places that we can go for comfort, refuge, education, and economic to support? As Rev. Forbes asked those of us at the panel, “Is your house a safe house?”

The performance by the coloratura soprano was mesmerizing. Many in the audience thought she sounded better than ever. Ms. Battle, ever the generous diva, celebrated the virtuosity of her fellow performers with smiles, hugs and lots of shared bows. Two of my favorites songs of the evening were “Fix Me Jesus” and “Let Us Break Bread Together”. The audience was one with the performer, listening to the trail of every note that sailed through the hall into infinity. If there is a voice that can reach the heavens and beyond, it is surely Ms. Battle’s.

“Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”—Harriet Tubman.

If you missed last night’s concert, you can get a taste of the superlative voice of Kathleen Battle from this recording of a joint concert with Jessye Norman of Spirituals at the MET.


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