Get to know the Voices of Unity Choir
Music in Van Wert
Saturday, April 21, 2012 9:00 PM
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting with a very intriguing and charismatic gentleman in Fort Wayne, Ind. I made the trip to Fort Wayne to visit Mr. Marshall White, director and founder of the Unity Performing Arts Foundation. What we both thought would be a thirty-minute visit turned into two hours!
The Voices of Unity Choir
I knew of Mr. White because we have the Voices of Unity Youth Choir coming to the Niswonger PAC in two weeks to perform with Livingston Taylor. It is a concert uniquely prepared for you, our NPAC audience. Livingston Taylor was here in 2008 and I enjoyed him so much I thought it would be nice to bring him back someday. At the same time, Chuck Koch, my board chairman mentioned he had heard the Voices of Unity Choir and felt we should bring them in for a performance some time.
My mind started racing. From the limited knowledge I had of the Voices of Unity Choir, I knew they sang Gospel style music quite well. A couple of my most favorite songs on Livingston Taylor's CD, "There you are Again" are songs in that style. Well, you can see where I was going with this. I thought about how cool it would be to combine these two musical forces for one fantastic evening at the NPAC. And now on Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. you will have the chance to hear this amazing one-time collaboration only at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert!
As we started drawing closer to the concert date, I knew I needed to learn more about the Voices of Unity Choir. I heard two different interviews Marshall White did with WOWO and WBCL radio just a couple weeks ago. I think that's when I decided I needed to meet face to face with Mr. White and find out more about what's behind this organization.
What I found is quite an amazing story! This man is the son of the Rev. Jesse White, who during the 1960's and 70's led the Black Community of Fort Wayne during the racial tensions. He told me stories you wouldn't believe while growing up on the South side of Fort Wayne. When his father passed away several years ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson preached his father's funeral service in Fort Wayne.
While a child in his father's church, it became obvious this young man had a gift for music. During our visit, we talked about having the gift of music, but still needing to nurture it. Upon graduation from high school, Marshall attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music and learned how and why he was naturally able to play the piano the way he did. He realized it was important to know this information himself, so he could teach others. He never graduated from college because his father felt he was learning too much of the "Devil's music!"
But, he had a gift. He became very involved in church music at his father's church. Eventually that led to a position with Northrop High School Contemporary Chorale Choir and then on to Purdue University where he made a name for himself as the director of the Purdue University Black Voices of Inspiration. Following a performance at Ohio State University with his Purdue chorus, a gentleman who he only knew by the name of "Profit" (Prophet?) came up to him, congratulated him, looked him squarely in the eye and said, "God has called you to lead the children." Marshall thought he was kidding and the man looked him in the eye once more and repeated the message.
Marshall told me that for two years precious, he had visions waking him up in the middle of the night, but he wasn't sure why. Now, it all made sense. In 2000, Marshall returned to Fort Wayne and established the Unity Performing Arts Foundation. The rest is pretty much history. In ten short years, he had a Gold-Medal winning chorus at the World Choir Games held in Shaoxing, China. They are now preparing for the 2012 games which will be held in Cincinnati, USA!
There is so much more I would love to tell you about my two hour interview with Mr. White, but I know my space is limited. The chorus you will hear on April 28 consists of youth ages 8-19 along with a few adult mentor singers. Keeping with the mission of the Unity Foundation, they try to reach across racial lines and although the music is what Marshall calls "soulful", you will see all races singing in the chorus. They will open for Livingston by performing about 35 minutes of their own music (and you just have to see and hear them!). They will return to the stage later that night and perform with Livingston on three tunes I can't wait to hear. They have been arranged just for us!
Nearly a year of planning has gone into this concert and I really hope you get the opportunity to experience it. A few seats still remain, so call (419) 238-NPAC 6722, stop by, or purchase on-line at www.npacvw.org.
And don't forget the VWHS musical, Beauty and the Beast this weekend at the NPAC! FINE.