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Canadian chorale celebrates civil rights legacy.

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The Nathaniel Dett Chorale has sung for Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Muhammad Ali during its nine years. Tonight, the Toronto ensemble makes its Cleveland debut as the first in a series of citywide tributes for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The program features Afrocentric pieces written by Ysaye Barnwell, Adolphus Hailstork, and Moses Hogan. “We pick music that has a distinct message,” says Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, the chorale’s founder. “We strive for a particular sound, and people seem to be pleased that the group delivers the music with authenticity.”

The choir was named after early 20th-century composer Nathaniel Dett, an African Canadian who wrote folk and spiritual tunes. The group originally came together as a showcase for nearly two dozen black singers. Today, half of the group is white. “One of the challenges I face in Toronto is finding enough singers of African heritage who are trained,” says Blyden-Taylor. “Many have lovely voices, but they don’t have the training. Still, audiences seem to be amazed that the group is ethnically diverse. In turn, we are respectful of each other like family.”
Fri., Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m.

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