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BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME – Composer Roy Jennings will take part of an spiritual evening of African-American music
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME – Composer Roy Jennings will take part of an spiritual evening of African-American music

Composer Roy Jennings and internationally acclaimed performers will present “There’s a Place for Us,” an evening celebrating African-American music and the American Songbook, at the Harborside Atrium on Oct. 20.

Jennings, who is currently the Minister of Music at the Bronx Baptist Church, served at the famed Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem for 23 years. He has a mission to perform, teach, and disseminate African-American Spirituals as American artwork. Much of his music includes songs derived from African-American Spirituals, hymns of the church, art songs, choral arrangements, and keyboard compositions.

The event will feature selections from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” and poetry of Langston Hughes in song by Ian Gordan and Margaret Bonds.

Jennings will present music based on African-American spirituals.

There will be a special musical tribute to Leonard Bernstein.

Performers will include: mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford, a native of Brooklyn, who has performed a number of operatic roles. She is a member of Opera Noire of New York City and the American Spirituals Ensemble; Robert Anthony Mack, member of the critically-acclaimed Three Mo’ Tenors and a leading member of the American Spiritual Ensemble; and  Mari-Yan Pringle, who has performed in opera houses and concert halls throughout Europe and the United States and is a member of the cast of the 75th Anniversary National Tour of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Internationally recognized Angela L. Owens, who has appeared at the La Folle Journeé festival in Nantes with the world renowned American Spiritual Ensemble; and Charles Carter, who is well known locally and has performed in the New Orleans French Quarter.

“This music shows the cultural infusion, it is where African spirituality meets Western harmony.” said Eva Jennings, the composer’s wife and a teacher at The Ethical Community Charter School in Jersey City.

Porgy and Bess, an adaptation of a stage play and novel, was first performed in Boston in 1935, before it moved to Broadway in New York City. As a requirement instituted by Gershwin, the musical featured a cast of classically trained African-American singers. Although controversial at the time, the musical became the gateway for later African-American performers. The opera has been performed around the world.

The concert is being held to help raise funds for TECCS’s special education and English language learning programs.

Marta Bergamini, principal of TECCS, said the school has benefited from a number of talented parents involved in programs such as this. But the program was also made possible by Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, a Real Estate Investment Trust headquartered in Jersey City,that sponsors the school.

A lot of the planning was done by Lauren Barbagallo, development director,  who helped bring together various elements in the school and built the connection with Mack-Cali.

Barbagallo said special needs programs are generally underfunded and so the concert will help raise money to benefit programs for about 13 percent of the school population.

“This is an infusion of African meets America,” — Eva Jennings

“We also have a very diverse school population,” Barbagallo said.

Bergamini said students speak between 40 to 45 different languages, and this program helps them.

Bergamini said many of the more innovative programs tap parents of students at the school as well as teachers.

“Some teachers are also musicians and when we ask them to help, they do.  We have very creative people here,” said Bergamini, “We are always looking for creative ways to help our student population.”


The concert will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Harborside Atrium, 210 Hudson St, in Jersey City. Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased on line at TECCSAPLACEFORUs.eventbrite.com. For more information go to www.teccsjc.org or email developmentoffice@teccsjc.org.


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