Two Towns in Harmony
One of the earliest Integration Through the Arts programs was the Two Towns in Harmony celebration that took place on July 3, 2005. Beginning in March 2004, South Orange and Maplewood hosted the community’s first composer-in-residence funded through a prestigious grant program of the American Composers Forum. Working through the Continental Harmony program, a diverse group of musicians from our two towns came together around a common musical goal: to develop an original piece of music representing the two town community in collaboration with a guest composer.
Janet Albright, a musician and composer based in Virginia and Germany, spent 18 months in our community working on the composition and finding the local talent that abounds here. Working with local musical groups, ensembles, and performers, Ms. Albright composed an original suite for voice and instruments entitled An American Dale, Becoming A Place For All People. Inspired by the history, culture, and people of South Orange and Maplewood, and the theme of liberty, the piece debuted at a community-wide celebration on July 3rd, 2005.
Helping bring the new music to life was Vicki Carter, who was a resident of Maplewood and the associate conductor of the orchestra at the Paper Mill Playhouse at the time. The biggest challenge was organizing the numerous musicians – including professionals, youth orchestras, drummers, bagpipers, gospel choirs and children’s choirs. Carter has continued to support the Coalition’s Integration through the Arts Sing-in programs in subsequent years.
For the Coalition, the dreamers of this event, the force behind the myriad of volunteers, performers and structures, this event was about much more than a day of celebration or an evening of glorious music, although those were certainly important. It was a way to establish connections and a spirit of cooperation, which we hope will persist for a long time going forward. Indeed, the stories we are hearing are demonstrating this may be a very realistic aspiration. New artistic collaborations were born – evidenced in sharing of musicians among faith based communities and establishment of new ensembles. New creative endeavors, such as the birth of a regular swing dance group, are in the works. And a new collaboration between departments of our municipal governments was born.
None of this would have been possible without the participation of more than 400 volunteers who planned, hauled, wrote, designed, chauffeured, fed, built, played, sang, sold, talked and lived this project over two and half years.