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The University of Liberia Alumni Chorus third benefit concert to go on, despite a delay by hurricane Irene

As 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).

At 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

ULAC 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.

Like 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

The 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.


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