Celebrating diversity through a universal language — music


Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff Elaine Vander Plate Held accompanies Harold Good as he rehearses African American spirituals he will sing at a “Celebrating Diversity Concert” that will be held Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Lincroft.CHRIS KELLY staff Elaine Vander Plate Held accompanies Harold Good as he rehearses African American spirituals he will sing at a “Celebrating Diversity Concert” that will be held Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Lincroft. Music lovers are in for a good time on Sunday evening at the “Celebrating Diversity Concert.” Several musicians and dancers will perform music from around the world, by women composers from around the globe.

The program, to be held at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Lincroft, is part of a six-month project of events that was established to realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of celebrating diversity. Organizers have chosen to do that through the universal language of music.

The project was created by the Allen Chapel AME Church and El Lobo Negro Gallery of the Arts, both in Asbury Park, in collaboration with the Monmouth Center for World Religion and Ethical Thought and the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County (UUCMC).

On the program will be American gospel songs sung by Neptune soprano Carolyn Watts, who will be accompanied on piano by Elaine Vander Plate Held, and African American spirituals sung by a young baritone by the name of Harold Good and soprano Michelle Jenkins.

Also on the program will be a Brazilian guitar solo by Darren O’Neill, an Israeli flute solo by Seth Rosenthal, Asian dancers in gorgeous costume, Indian classical devotional music by classical vocalist Sashi Balija, Australian chamber music for flute and piano and a French piano solo performed by Vander Plate Held, who said the program will be mixed up with the music of one culture complemented by the music of another.

Good and Vander Plate Held were rehearsing on Saturday at Held’s house in Bradley Beach. Good’s rich baritone voice was full of emotion while he sang African American spirituals like “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying” and “Joshua at the Battle of Jericho.”

Working together, the two accomplished artists made concessions to each other in order to get the timing and tempo right. They discussed technical things like where he would come in and whether she should play louder or softer.

Good, an Egg Harbor Township resident, met Vander Plate Held during the summer when he sang at the Monday night Opera by the Sea performance on the boardwalk in Bradley Beach where Vander Plate Held is the pianist. They both discovered that they are alumni of Westminster Choir College. Soprano Michelle Jenkins and Good were at Westminster together.

He works as a music teacher at an elementary school in Atlantic City and is studying for a Ph.D. in educational leadership in higher education from Capella University, an online program.

Vander Plate Held, a concert pianist who has been a catalyst for promoting the music of women composers for the last six or seven years, said almost every piece of music is written by women composers. She explained that the Israeli flute solo was written by Shulamit Ran, the second woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in music.

Milton Holmes, pastor emeritus of the Allen Chapel AME Church, explained that the Allen Project is a nonprofit corporation that grew out of the AME church.

“It’s a community-development corporation to deal with programs like these. We started with a domestic violence training program, which grew out of my work with domestic violence situations and my contact with judges. I’ve handled close to 1,500 cases since I started.”

Holmes said the project has received a grant to do domestic violence training for other people in the congregation.

“Out of that, we started more programs and about four years ago, we partnered with the Monmouth Center because that’s a very diverse religious group,” Holmes said.

“We want to really push diversity and getting to know one another through similar functions. We have shared the Martin Luther King Day for about four years, as well as the Thanksgiving Day service.”

At the Dr. Martin Luther King Day service this year, they will have an enactment of a meeting between King and Malcolm X.

“It will be an enactment of how they would see the events of their day,” Holdmes said.

He noted that Malcolm was assassinated in 1965 and King in 1968. The enactment will be held on Jan. 15 at the UUCMC meeting house.

Holmes explained that the Allen Project is named after Richard Allen, who was a founder of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church.

Roshan Chadda, of the Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought, said the concert will be followed by a Diversity Day on Saturday, Oct. 15.

The event will include a screening of a new film, “Long Way From Home,” with a discussion led by its director.

“It is film about three ninth-graders: an Asian American, an African American, and a Muslim American.”

Diversity Day will be followed by a United We Sing Thanksgiving Program on Nov. 20 and the final program will be held on Dr. Martin Luther King Day at the Allen Chapel AME Church.

“It is all very exciting. The Allen Project, the Monmouth Center and the UUCMC are all working together,” Chadda said.

The concert will take place at the UUCMC meeting house, 1475 W. Front St., Lincroft.

For more information about this concert, call Vander Plate Held at (732) 747-0707. For directions go to www.uucmc.org.

A free-will donation will be gratefully accepted.