Tyrone Whiting, music director at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, had big plans. Then came Omicron.
Tyrone Whiting, music director at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, had big plans. The congregation would celebrate Black History Month together with a concert in the sanctuary, the first of what would become an annual tradition.
Then came Omicron. The COVID variant’s upsurge last year upended Whiting’s plans and forced him and the program participants to pivot. They produced an online video of the concert, one that parishioners watched at the same time, but separately in their own homes.
But this February, Whiting and the congregation are scheduled to experience what they had planned for last year, a concert celebrating Black history – together, in the sanctuary, sitting next to one another in the pews.
“Last year was a lot of work, and I learned a great deal,” said Whiting, now the church’s director of music & arts.
This year’s concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, will feature the multimedia artistry of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in music, poetry and prose.
The church’s Adult Choir, teachers, professional section leaders and Children’s Choir will sing a mix of choir, chamber and solo pieces, and the literary work of Black writers will be read. Attendees will hear words written by Maya Angelou, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Langston Hughes. Music will include traditional spirituals and modern-day arrangements of the compositions.
Whiting intends for the concert to amplify voices that “haven’t been heard or have been oppressed,” he said.
“We have the resources, ability and will to be able to promote music of underrepresented composers – and we should be doing that,” Whiting continued.
The same attention is given to the work of women artists during Women’s History Month in March and during the year, and also that of LGBTQ+ musicians and writers, Whiting said. Last June, during Pride Month, the church collaborated with Christ Church - Philadelphia to inaugurate another annual tradition – a Pride Evensong service featuring the work of the LGBTQ+ musicians and artists.
Focusing on the history of underrepresented communities during a designated month “is not tokenism for us,” Whiting said, “because we highlight these repertoires throughout the year.”
(St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church is at 8000 St. Martin’s Lane. The church’s website is stmartinec.org)