University of Liberia Alumni Chorus third benefit
concert to go on, despite a delay by hurricane
Hurricane Irene plowed through the northeast
two weeks ago, killing at least 44 people, leaving
more than 500,000 homes and businesses without
electricity, it caused major disruptions in
people's lives, including the postponement of
a planned benefit concert by the University
of Liberia Alumni Chorus (ULAC).
about 1:00 p.m. that Saturday afternoon, 60
members of the ULAC group were huddled at the
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University
of Maryland - College Park, doing what they
love - singing their hearts out. The group had
been rehearsing for six months for its third
benefit concert under the directorship of James
Milton Weeks, Jr when the storm hit. Chorus
members had converged on Maryland from across
the US and Liberia for the concert billed to
be a world class performance.
The Internationally Renowned signing sensation
was scheduled to perform classical works of
Beethoven, Handel and Gounod, as well as Negro
Spirituals by Moses Hogan and Nathaniel Dett.
The chorus was also featuring a repertoire of
African choral music from South, East, and West
Africa including choral music from Zambia, South
Africa, Ghana, and Liberia, by composers like
Mariam Makeba, Ephraim Amu and the late director
of the chorus, Professor Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos.
Other acts scheduled for the evening included
Liberia's premier Gospel sensation, the Glorious
Lamps, the electrifying Liberian Cultural Troupe
and other Liberian artists.
Members of the chorus hoped for better weather.
Although Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley had
declared a state of emergency in preparation
for Hurricane Irene that Thursday, all eyes
were focused on the coastal regions of the state,
like Ocean City. The city's emergency management
officials had asked anyone who had planned to
travel to the resort town to postpone their
visits until the storm passed. So when Bill
Line, Communications Director for The National
Park Service said on Friday that it was premature
to announce a cancellation of the Martin Luther
King, Jr. Memorial Project which was slated
for dedication on Sunday afternoon in Washington,
DC. ULAC was very optimistic. But on Saturday
afternoon when the light drizzle became heavy
rain accompanied by gusty winds, it became undoubtedly
clear that Irene was not backing down. For safety
concerns for the hundreds who had bought tickets,
the group knew postponing the concert was the
right thing to do. After a meeting with the
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center management,
ULAC settled on Friday October 7, 2011 as the
new concert date.
The late Director, University of Liberia
Chorus Mrs. Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos
is born of a storied musical tradition created
by the Late Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos, an internationally
respected music scholar and educator. After
assuming its mantle in 1961, Liberia's only
ethnomusicologist developed the University of
Liberia Chorus into one of Africa's cultural
crown jewels, reflecting Professor von Ballmoos'
vision of Liberian culture, through choral music.
many institutions, the University of Liberia
was a casualty of Liberia's tragic civil war.
When the University reopened, the music department
had ceased to exist. Mrs. von Ballmoos, its
driving force, who had fled to London during
the war, died in 2000. Dozens of chorus alumni
had also settled in the US. Several of them
kept singing, years after their last University
recital. Their dedication to the dreams of their
late director and their desire to help their
alma mater led the former chorus members to
form what is known today as the University of
Liberia Alumni Chorus, or ULAC. The group's
goals are to:
Award scholarships to deserving students seeking
higher education at the University of Liberia
- Establish a Fine Arts Center in honor of Mrs.
Agnes von Ballmoos at the University of Liberia
- Encourage faculty excellence through the awarding
of the Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos Faculty award
to a faculty member who has made notable contributions
in his or her field of study by demonstrating
Innovation in Instruction, Commitment to Student
Success and exemplary contributions to the Mission
and Goals of the university, through strong
leadership qualities, with a unique ability
to guide and inspire others.
J. Milton Weeks jr. Director, University of
Liberia Alumni Chorus
new date for the concert is set for October
7, 2011, which is bound to be exciting. Dr.
James Elliot, Anatomic and Clinical Pathologist,
a three time platinum sponsor considers attending
the concert "an exhilarating experience."
John Lloyd, Commissioner of African Affairs,
Government of the District of Columbia, also
a sponsor of the group, describes the chorus
as an "exemplary emblem of national pride
and a marvelous display of home-grown talent
and selfless contribution to the common goal
of national reconciliation." Counselor
Kwame Clement, an ardent supporter of the chorus
and its cause sums up his thoughts about the
chorus like this: "With their unrelenting
pursuit of perfection, uncompromising insistence
of excellence, abiding love for their craft
and total devotion to Liberia, the members of
ULAC are a constant reminder that each and every
one of us has the capacity to help our country
fulfill its noble destiny." The chorus
was ready to sing for their cause but hurricane
Irene delayed the opportunity. Luckily an opportunity
delayed is not necessarily an opportunity denied.
So hold on to your tickets. If you do not have
a ticket, get one. You will have your opportunity
to hear them sing on October 7th 2011. It will
be a very nice day.