Giddens sisters, Dossett, McGinn sing of peace and community
*Editor’s note: In the print version of this article, there is a punctuation error in the first sentence. There should have been a comma, not period, added after “home.” The online version has been updated.
Rhiannon Giddens is “so happy to make some music with some of my favorite people in the world, in a rare visit home, and for a great cause.”
The Grammy-nominated (and MacArthur fellowship-winning) singer, banjo player, musicologist and historian was talking about the upcoming “Songs of Peace and Community” concert organized by her sister, Dr. Lalenja Harrington. On May 19, Giddens, Harrington, Laurelyn Dossett, Sinclair Palmer and Charlie Hunter will be performing to raise money for the Experiential School of Greensboro. The concert is at 8 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant at 501 S. Mendenhall St. in Greensboro.
“I’m also happy to support a school that is invested in making a 21st-century citizen and expanding the notion of what education can be, and should be,” Giddens said.
Harrington, the professor, poet, and singer featured in our April 24, 2018 cover story “Not just a Giddens sister,” described how the concert came to be.
“One of the founders of The Experiential School, Dr. Leila Villaverde, is a mentor of mine. So, when the opportunity arose to support the school, the first thing that I thought of was putting on a concert and including musicians that I love and respect, who are activists in our community, and whom I also know to value the same principles. The line-up with Rhiannon, Laurelyn, Molly, whom I have performed with many times, and then Sinclair and Charlie, musicians who are new to me but not the community, is so exciting.”
Harrington described herself as a “big believer” in the Experiential School of Greensboro, and its “pedagogical practice of using experiential education to engage learners in an inclusive way, that centers social justice and community engagement.”
Villaverde described the school’s mission as “to educate creative critically engaged citizens through experiential education, project-based learning and through an awareness of what we can all do towards a socially just world.” Chartered in 2018, it’s a K-8 public school “specifically designed to be downtown, to build relationships in the community, and partner with the city as part of the curriculum.”
Molly McGinn offered effusive praise for Harrington “and all the good work she’s been doing to raise up socially aware thinkers.” Calling her friend “a force of nature,” she said, “I’d do anything” for the woman she described as “working to organize a school experience where we can raise a culture that doesn’t bully a child because of their sexual preference or choice in dress.”
And she was just as excited to be reuniting with her other veteran collaborators. “Every time I get together with Laurelyn and Rhiannon, some shit is going down.”
She also expressed her delight at the participation of bandleader, writer and seven and eight-string guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter, who has worked with Norah Jones, Mos Def, John Mayer, and D’Angelo.
“He’s got some plans in the works to make Greensboro even more well-known, on a national scale, as a music town. One that doesn’t gentrify, but unifies.”
Laurelyn Dossett also had praise for Sinclair Palmer, whom she called “an amazing bass player and an awesome person. Sinclair is a wonderful collaborator and musician, and a fun spirit to have around.”
Harrington credited the concert’s title to Dossett. “We will be focusing on themes of peace and community, which are in line with the school’s mission. Laurelyn has generously supported our use of the “Songs of” format that she’s used in the past, which highlights the collaboration between the artists who are performing. I am looking forward to the night creatively and as a way to support such a great school right here in the center of Greensboro!”
“Rhiannon and Lalenja and Molly and I have collaborated on a lot of different projects over the years,” Dossett said. “And a lot of community-based performances to raise awareness of good causes. We have a really easy kind of friendship and sisterhood. Something special always happens.”
“We are so deeply honored that Lalenja, Rhiannon, Laurelyn, Molly, Sinclair and Charlie are so graciously giving of their time,” Villaverde said. “Their generosity is inspiring, and we hope this continues to strengthen our expanding community. Our success is always a shared endeavor. It takes every single one of us to make history and TESG is doing so together in Greensboro!”
Tickets for “Songs of Peace and Community” are $35 and available via Eventbrite.
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.