By Connie E, news correspondent

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.”

In remembrance of Dr. King’s legacy, the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) presented an acoustic performance “Raw Truth” on MLK Day, Jan. 18, at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. The BCC is an arts education organization that unites children of different ages, races, religions and economic status. Through music, its singers celebrate shared humanity.

“Our artistic director has come up with this theme of Raw Truth, and the idea is both a musical concept but also a kind of philosophical, social justice concept,” Ben Hires, director of programs, explained.
BCC was founded by Hubie Jones, a civic leader who, for five decades, has worked to address the social problems facing Boston’s underserved children and communities.

BCC’s artist director, Anthony Trecek-King, chose this year’s selections, which span a wide range of topics from racial to environmental justice. For example, “A Church is Burning” describes an arson committed by three Ku Klux Klan members. The lyric goes: “You can burn down my churches, but I shall be free.”

The program featured other conscience-searing songs, including “Kalief Browder” by Brad Wells, a song based on the story of the 16-year-old African-American boy who spent three years in jail without a conviction and ultimately committed suicide. Dr. King’s legacy is reflected by spirituals of the Civil Rights movement, a major component of BCC’s repertoire.

“The music of this period is a reflection of its time, serving as both catharsis and as a cry for justice against the harsh discrimination experienced by black Americans,” Niko Caravajal, a BCC singer, said.
The concert also featured the Grammy award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, which performs contemporary compositions.

“The fun part of collaborating with different guest artists is that they all have their own styles, and they play into the types of feel of the concert that we put on,” Elliott Ronna, a BCC singer, said. “This year’s group of guest artists added a more contemporary feel to the whole program.”

In an effort to tackle social issues, the young singers ages 7-18 address truth on a deeper level.

“Classical music is especially a good way to celebrate MLK Day because talking about social issues is always challenging, but since BCC creates such an empathetic environment, it makes you much more comfortable to do that”, Grace Kromm, a BCC singer, said. “Portraying his legacy through singing is very representative of our theme at the BCC, which is to inspire social change through music.”

The members not only develop leadership skills and learn how to sing, but also how to be empathetic human beings.

“All the pieces carry messages related to ‘Raw Truth,’” Zoe Papastoitsis, a BCC singer, said. “To go into the concert thinking about ‘what are my raw truths’ and ‘how do those messages apply to me’ – I think that’s something that really adds to the concert. And of course, when singers ourselves are thinking about those questions, it adds a whole layer of meanings to our performance since we’re singing with emotions rather than just notes.”

In the future, the BCC is looking to continue to have a positive impact on its local community.
“In 10 years’ time, hopefully our mission and our view of a just and equitable society will be a little bit closer,” Hires said.

Photo by Connie E