When she signed on to perform a classical violin piece as part the “cultural hour” segment of the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Fall HillFest this year, which take place virtually from 2 to 3 p.m., on Sunday, Sept. 27, Young-Shin Choi, a native of South Korea who now lives in the Boston area, wanted to find a composition that truly speaks to the current times.
Through research for her upcoming performance, she first learned of the African Meeting House at 46 Joy St. – the nation’s oldest remaining black church building – and decided she wanted to spotlight the work of the many oft-overlooked black American classical composers.
Choi, who earned a master’s music from the Boston Conservatory in 1998, eventually settled on “The Bandana Sketch” – a 1918 composition based on black spirituals and written by Clarence Cameron White, a black American neoromantic composer and concert violinist who was born in 1880 in Clarkesville, Tenn., and served as the conductor of the Victorian Chamber Orchestra in Boston from 1916 to 1920.
During her performance of the four songs comprising “The Bandana Sketch” (i.e. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”; “I’m Troubled in Mind; “Many Thousand Gone”; and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”), Choi will be accompanied by pianist Jung Sun Yoon.
“When I found this piece…I honestly thought that this image was perfect for the current times,” Choi wrote. “Yet, as you can imagine, ‘Bandana’ symbolizes more than just a face covering.”
With this in mind, Choi intends to wear a rainbow-colored bandana (although likely not as a face covering) during her performance to, as she said, “express diversity and inclusivity.”
Choi wrote, “I would like to symbolize this square piece of cloth as a way to tie people together as one in hoping that our society will no longer stand for any type of discrimination.”
A newcomer to Fall HillFest this year, Choi said she was enlisted to participate in the event by Patricia Tully, the Civic Association’s executive director, and Emily Claire, a board member, who both saw a classical violin performance of Choi’s at an event sponsored by the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum around the holidays last year at Hampshire House.
Following Choi’s performance, Mark Kiefer, the former chair and president of the Civic Association board and a longtime neighborhood resident, will again serve as guide for an architectural tour of the neighborhood.
But unlike in years past when the tour took place as an in-person event, it’s happening virtually this time instead, which allows Kiefer the opportunity to cover new ground.
“Historically I’ve been pressed for time because we could only walk so far,” said Kiefer, who was also a Historic New England tour guide of the neighborhood for around 20 years and still serves on that organization’s advisory board. “Now that it’s going virtual, I can talk much more about Beacon Hill and specifically about the North Slope, and the really important cultural and historical resources there like the African Meeting House and the Museum of African American History.”
But instead of just creating a straightforward video for the occasion, Kiefer is instead opting to make a multi-media presentation that will not only allow him to take questions from the audience, but also incorporate historic images, paintings and maps into the program for the first time.
“I have some really cool images of Beacon Hill that people might not have seen before,” he said.
Kiefer’s program will focus on a very brief period from the 1790s to the early 1800s – a time that, he said, was “the most formative in development of the city, and when Boston starts to become a proper city,” and the featured images will feature include a series of photos that illustrate the radical transformation of the Hill’s geography around 1800.
“There used to be three hills in the neighborhood, and the one in the middle was 60 feet taller than it is now,” Kiefer said. “They basically cut 60 feet off the top and dumped it into the river…and used the earth for landfill”
While Kiefer is excited that the tour will go on this year with a new format that offers unprecedented possibilities, it has in some ways made his job more challenging as he attempts to squeeze more content than ever berfore into his allotted 45-minute timeframe.
“I know the material, but I’m still working it out,” he said.
The “Culture Hour” of this year’s Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Fall HillFest, takes place on Sunday, Sept. 27, from 2 to 3 p.m. Visit bhcivic.org to register in advance.