Mark your calendars. Sunday, June 3, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. is when the Mosaic Harmony Community Choir will perform their 24th annual Spring Concert at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (UUCF) at 2709 Hunter Mill Road in Oakton…and on the evening of Tuesday, May 15, choir director Reverend David K. North had his soulful squad practically raising the rafters in the UUCF sanctuary during their rehearsal for the upcoming event.
Originally formed at the UUCF in 1993, the 501(c)(3) Mosaic Harmony has been growing in numbers, in diversity, and in their efforts to “unite the world, one song at a time.”
Rev. North, an ordained Baptist minister, has been spearheading that mission for the last 22 years. In keeping with his energetic style of musical direction, North can barely sit still in his seat when he talks about the group, the music and their one over-riding goal – “bring people together, regardless of race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whatever differences they think divide them. Music can unite them. And that starts with us. Everyone is welcomed here.”
OVER THE YEARS, North and the Mosaic Harmony board members continue to make good on that promise. The choir of some 60-plus members, now counts people from a multitude of faiths who come from all around the DMV to become part of a “welcoming community.”
North nearly glows with emotion when he tells a story that demonstrates that “welcoming and inclusive spirit.”
First he explains that choir members don’t have to audition to join. They don’t even have to read music. Willingness to participate and be part of “bridge-building through music” is all the entry credentials required. “If we start adding all these criteria,” said North, “then we’re not a community any more. Community means all kinds of people, with all kinds of skills and levels of abilities.
“So, we had one new member who had all the spirit, but not all the voice.” North was moved when he saw the members of that range grouping gradually re-position themselves to place the newbie in their midst, where the realignment “gave a strength to the new voice. And they did that on their own. Just folded our new member right in.”
Mosaic Board president – and choir member – Nikki Barnett Harrell seconds North’s characterization of the choir.
Barnett Harrell now commutes from Arlington to the twice-monthly Tuesday rehearsals in Oakton, but when she first joined the group she was making the trek from the District.
How did she become a Mosaic member, going from a mostly African-American urban background to a predominantly Caucasian suburban assembly?
“Just a little outside my general circle,” she admits. Barnett Harrell is one of many brought into Mosaic by other members, former members, or just fans of the choir, “people who were excited to introduce us to an environment where we can sing, and connect with people of all different faiths and backgrounds.”
Within the Mosaic Harmony “family” she found a place where “it’s first and foremost about people, where differences are celebrated, and everyone has the opportunity to find our common bonds as human beings.
“It’s infectious. It’s soul-freeing,” Barnett Harrell described the atmosphere that has kept her engaged since 2009.
The choir performs throughout the region. In February, they performed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints D.C. Visitors’ Center for the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, and in April they joined forces with the Washington International Chorus and the World Children’s Choir for the program “Music Uniting the World.” They’ve even brought their high-energy act overseas, performing in Rome last year.
“We’ve sung at large venues, retirement homes, hospitals and for clients of the Mental Health Institute, and a number of fundraisers throughout the year,” said Barnett Harrell, but the Spring Concert on June 3 is their signature event and conclusion of their 2017-2018 season. The nonprofit raises funds to cover their operating expenses and for the salaries of their musicians and director. The choir itself, the board members, “and everyone else who pitches in” are all volunteers.
The group is partially funded by the Arts Council of Fairfax County, with fundraisers, donations and ticket and CD sales making up the rest.
“We would love to offer even more performances, and more outreach events,” North and Barnett Harrell both stated. “The more funds we raise, the more uplifting music we can share.”
So, what’s on the musical menu for the Spring Concert? Obviously songs and hymns that offer encouragement and demonstrate that “We’re Going to Make It Together.”
Sometimes a bit of audience participation is involved.
“No one can resist David when he asks you to clap along, or even sing along,” says choir member Teresa McConnel of Fairfax. Listening to the up-tempo selections being rehearsed, it’s doubtful North will have to do much coaxing to get the audience engaged.
MOSAIC HARMONY’S REPERTOIRE draws deeply from the heritage of African-American spiritual music, combined with traditional and contemporary gospel songs, including many composed by North himself, but the music is inspirational rather than religiously specific. “It’s for everyone,” he explains, mindful that both his singers and his audiences have their own diverse beliefs.
“You don’t need to assimilate,” says North. “We’re trying to form a beautiful human picture from all of our individual pieces of the puzzle – together.”
To purchase tickets for the concert and to learn more about Mosaic Harmony Community Choir, visit their website at www.mosaicharmony.org.