Tribute to Susan Paul Brings Joy and Unity to Beacon Hill

Special to Times

On Sunday, Oct. 15, music filled both the African Meeting House and the hearts of those in attendance at “Let the Children Sing,” a joint collaboration between the Museum of African American History, the Beacon Hill Civic Association, and Crescendo Productions.

Museum president Dr. Noelle Trent and education director Christian Walkes, along with preservationist Dorothy Clark, offered poignant remarks about both the significance of the historic site and program honoree Susan Paul, a 19th-century educator whose “juvenile choirs” help spread the abolitionist message across Massachusetts.

“’Let the Children Sing’ was more than a concert,” said Walkes. “It was not only an ode to the great abolitionist and educator Susan Paul, but more importantly, an opportunity for 21st-century voices to resuscitate the spirit of her work in a space where history was and continues to be made.”

The Harambee Singers and the Eastern Mass Children’s Choir, both under the direction of Linda Brown-San Martin, moved the audience with hymns and spirituals, while youth enrichment group City Strings United’s cello choir performed works composed by the group’s director, Bithyah Israel, that were based on songs from an 1845 abolitionist hymnal, a book that would almost certainly been known to Paul. Educator and performer Regie Gibson moved the audience with poetic works of spoken word, and collaborated with City Strings on the world premiere of a original piece in which Gibson read anti-slavery hymns backed by a choir of cellos.

For the finale, the house was brought to its feet when the entire ensemble of performers led the audience in a spirited version of “This Little Light of Mine.”  Thanks to the support of sponsors Suffolk University, F.H. Perry Builders, The Whaley-Ring Team of Coldwell Banker, Blackstones of Beacon Hill, and Florina Pizza and Paninoteca, this exuberant program made for a meaningful and exhuberant afternoon at one of Beacon Hill’s most iconic and important historical sites. Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Executive Director Patricia Tully summed it up well by noting, “This concert was an amazing example of what can be done in community, to celebrate community, and to share community. To hear these talented young people fill the sanctuary with their sounds was uplifting and joyful!

Susan Paul, no doubt, would have agreed.

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