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Luncheon at Bethlehem Lutheran Church; Celebration of the Negro Spiritual Music

On Sunday afternoon, February 12th, we went to two fun events that took place just a few miles apart from each other in the Cleveland Heights/Shaker Heights area.

First of all, we went to the Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Mayfield road for a late luncheon organized by members of Nobel-Monitor Lodge No. 130 of the Vasa Order of America that, and we quote its literature, "is the largest Swedish-American cultural fraternal organization for all Scandinavian individuals and families. Vasa was founded in 1896 by Swedish immigrants to America to perpetuate Swedish language and cultural activities." We were welcomed by Mr. Rolf and Ms. Marty Bergman who told us that anyone who is open to learning more about Sweden and its customs is welcomed there. We learned that Lodge 130 is one of almost twenty chapters of the Vasa Order located in Sweden, Canada and the United States.

We then sat down to a delicious meal composed of thick split pea soup which a staple of the Swedish diet, crackers and cheese, and "plattar" which are thin, silver dollar-sized pancakes served with a jam made from lingonberries which, according to "Wikipedia" might be described "mountain cranberries" in terms of taste and are very much a part of the Scandinavian diet.

While we were eating we learned that there was a Swedish Museum in Philadelphia that we would very much like to visit someday and a local concert sponsored by Vasa that should occur in the first part of March, 2017 that we hope we will be able to attend.

We enjoyed visiting with people so much there that we missed the first part of our next event that was a Celebration of the Negro Spiritual Music titled "My Lord, What a Morning'!" at the Christ Episcopal Church on Warrensville Center Road. What we missed was a documentary film about Ms. Barbara Conrad Smith, the international opera star, titled "When I Rise" that, from what we understand, told the story of how she succeeded despite having to undergo a lot of racial discrimination and insults.

Nevertheless, we made it in time for a concert of 12 spiritual hymns sung by Ms. Andrea Anelli (who studied with Ms. Conrad Smith and is now a close friend of hers) and Mr. Brian Keith Johnson accompanied by Ms. Jeanette Davis Ostrander on the piano who was assisted by her daughter Miss Lillian Ostrander who turned the pages of music while her mother played.

As we walked in Ms. Anelli, who founded "ContempOpera/Cleveland" in 2016, recognized us and said hello. All we can say about the concert is that all three artists performed to their utmost and we loved listening to to the classic songs most of which we had never heard before.

We want to add that Ms. Ancelli and Mr. Johnson gave an excellent introduction to what was about to be sung and heard but we couldn't quite capture as we were taking notes. Thankfully, however, Mr. Johnson kindly shared his written copy with us and it read as follows:

"We would like to express our deep respect for those who first sang these melodies and words-these songs of hardship, suffering, faith and triumph. We are also grateful to those who worked to preserve this musical legacy putting this particular soundtrack of history on paper and in recordings to the benefit of those who followed...The plantation songs known as 'spirituals' were never 'composed', but sprang into life, ready made, from the white heat of religious fervor during some of the protracted meeting in camp or church, as the simple, ecstatic utterance of wholly untutored minds, and are practically the only music in America which meets the scientific definition of Folk Song. Success in singing these Folk Songs is primarily dependent upon deep spiritual feeling. The voice is not nearly so important as the spirit...for through all these songs there breathes a hope, a faith in the ultimate justice and brotherhood of man. The cadences of sorrow invariably turn to joy, and the message is ever manifest that eventually deliverance from all that hinders and oppresses the soul will come, and man-every man-will be free."

After the concert concluded, Reverend Peter Faass, the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, was so moved that he said that the music made him feel like he was on "Cloud 9" and that he felt inspired to persevere and to work for social justice "for all of God's children" during the troubled times of today.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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