Friday the 13th is a date that’s usually reserved for pessimism and superstition. Nothing could be further from the truth on Friday evening, January 13, when the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices shared in a warm, inspiring commemoration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This community tradition, was held at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a diverse congregation that prides itself on its rich musical traditions and “music that makes community.” The temple’s reknowned cantor, Lisa Levine, a dynamic composer, musician and vocalist, led the Jubilee Voices, the Wilson High School Choir, members of the TAP Camp of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington, DC, and the temple’s youth choir, adult choir and band in the world-beat style “Soulful Shabbat Ruach.”
The guest artists were also invited to share songs from their own repertoire. The lyrics of one of the songs we performed, “Welcome Table,” promises, “I’m gonna eat at the welcome table, some of these days.” This spiritual, like many others, moved from its traditional, church-based roots to become one of the famous “Freedom Songs” of the Civil Rights Movement. Sung at sit-ins, during marches, and often, as protestors were led to jail, these songs spread the message of the movement and its people. The enthusiastic audience at Temple Shalom sang along, continuing the tradition!
Our friendship with Cantor Lisa began early last year, just after recording the Washington Revels CD, Hard Times Come Again No More: American Music of the Civil War Era, produced by recording engineer Charlie Pilzer at Airshow Mastering. Cantor Lisa, who was recording Soulful Shabbat Ruach at Airshow, was seeking gospel singers to sing on two songs on the album. Charlie played the Jubilee Voices cuts from Hard Times for Cantor Lisa, and the rest was history, culminating last May when members of Jubilee Voices joined forces with Cantor Levine and the Temple Shalom choirs and bands to celebrate the release of Cantor Lisa’s CD last May.
Cantor Lisa’s lyrics for “Reaching for Peace,” one of the songs on Soulful Shabbat Ruach, sums up the life of Dr. King and gives us the charge for continuing his important work:
“Reaching for peace in our lives, reaching for peace in our community,
Reaching for peace all around the world, And let us say, ‘Amen! ‘”