Halalisa EnsembleHalalisa Ensemble. / Courtesy image

Boston-based world music vocal ensemble Halalisa Singers ultimately was unable to present  its“Concert for the Earth” a performance honoring Earth Day featuring the “Missa Gaia (Earth Mass).”

It was to have been Sunday, April 30, 2023, at First Parish of Arlington, 630 Mass.Ave. YourArlington learned Oct. 2 from spokeswoman Milva McDonald that it had to be cancelled due to performers' illness.

The performance is now to take place Oct. 14 at First Parish of Arlington  and Oct. 15 at First Unitarian of Worcester, she said.

Three members of the Lexington-based, 30-voice group are from Arlington: Meg Candilore, Jack Matson and Nancy Stephenson. 

Special guests were to be composer, singer and guitarist Jim Scott, who created the works Missa Gaia” and “We Are the Earth;” saxophonist/vocalist Stan Strickland, pianist Trevor Berens, percussionist Bertram Lehmann, bassist Rick McLaughlin and local branch members of the national climate movement organization Mothers Out Front. 

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An uplifting program that celebrates the beauty of the Earth, “Concert for the Earth” was intended as a call for action to stem the destructive tide of climate change. Composed in the early 1980s, “Missa Gaia (Earth Mass),” by Paul Winter, Paul Halley and Jim Scott, weaves lyrical melodies with international gospel traditions, the calls of animals, and the songs of whales as a joyful tribute to the planet, reminding people of the incomparable beauty, preciousness and precariousness of nature, a news release said.

“We are thrilled to sing the 'Missa Gaia' with Jim Scott and Stan Strickland, and connect with the community in song about the urgent climate crisis,” said Cunningham. “This gorgeous piece, written 40 years ago, is a love song to the beauty of our world and still calls to us to care and appreciate our place in the interconnected web of all life. The mix of Gregorian chant and church hymns, Latin American and African rhythms, jazz and gospel ballads with the song of wolf and whale mixed in is quite a musical experience!”

The program’s second half would have featured Kim Andre Arnesen’s “Song for Justice” from his “Beatitudes for a Wounded World,” Gwyneth Walker’s call for universal love in “Tree of Peace,” Moses Hogan’s soulful arrangement of “Wade in the Water” with Strickland as vocal soloist, and Diana Saez’s flowing “Yemaya,” as well as songs by Jim Scott including “Harmony,” “Common Ground” and “We Are the Earth.”

The chorus was to sing climate movement anthems “The Tide Is Rising” by Rabbi Shoshana Friedman and Yotam Schachter, and “Do It Now: Sing for the Climate,” calling people to build a better future right now with Mothers Out Front with information on how audience members can support climate justice. “We’re excited to include works by contemporary composers who call us to action,” said Cunningham. “The collaboration with Mothers Out Front offers opportunities to get involved and make a difference. Our music can move us to accomplish what our hearts desire and the time is now!”

About Halalisa Singers

Halalisa Singers are a celebrated world music vocal ensemble of Greater Boston, dedicated to the performance of music across all cultures and nationalities. Halalisa is a Zulu word for celebration, and in that spirit, the Halalisa repertoire includes African, Latin, American spiritual, gospel, Jewish, folk and jazz music.

Founded by Nick Page in 1992 and under the leadership of Cunningham since 2004, the chorus offers vibrant, passionate performances throughout the Boston area, inspired by the belief that music is a universal language with the power to uplift and unite, the news release said.

The ensemble has been featured at venues and events including the Museum of Fine Arts, Revels’ RiverSing, Winchester Multicultural Network, Lexington Symphony, Refugee Immigration Ministry’s Annual International Concert and Belmont International Film Festival. 

About the performing artists

Mary Cunningham is in her 18th year of leading the Halalisa Singers, creating and directing unique and dynamic world music-themed choral concerts. Following her vision to share their music across the Boston area and beyond, Halalisa continues to reach out to wider audiences to perform an ever-expanding repertoire. In 2019, she led the group in a concert tour of Ireland with performances in Dublin and Galway. She commissioned composers Page and Brian Tate to write songs in celebration of the group’s 20th anniversary, which are now sung by choruses nationwide. She earned her Master’s in Music at the Cleveland Institute of Music after degree training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and is known in the Boston area as an active choral conductor, vocalist and flute soloist. She is music director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading and a member of the American Choral Directors Association and of the Association of UU Music Ministries. A member of the New World Chorale and a frequent performer with the Christmas Revels, she also is on the faculty of the Powers Music School in Belmont and has a private teaching studio in Medford.

Scott conveys warmth and humor in his jazz- and world-music-influenced songs. With guitar mastery and a clear voice, he touches hearts with messages of peace, justice and the Earth. A former member of the Paul Winter Consort, Scott has toured the world, recorded several CDs of original music and published a growing line of choral works. A co-creator of the “Green Sanctuary” program for churches to become more sustainable, Jim also compiled the “Earth and Spirit Songbook,” an anthology of more than 100 songs ofEearth and peace. He has been artist in residence or visiting faculty at schools such as Oberlin College and enjoys putting young people in touch with their innate creativity and the power of musical expression. He has visited more than 700 Unitarian Universalist churches, and several of his songs are featured in the UU Hymnbooks.

Singer, saxophonist, flutist and actor Strickland has performed extensively throughout the US, Europe, Scandinavia, New Zealand and the former Soviet Union. In addition to numerous radio and television appearances, he has performed in venues including Jordan and Symphony Halls in Boston, Carnegie Recital Hall and Town Hall in New York, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He also has performed with the Boston Pops Touring Ensemble and jazz greats Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Mann, Danilo Perez, Shirley Scott and Marlena Shaw. Acting experience includes the leading role in the Boston Art Group’s production of “Harlem Renaissance,” which toured across New England, and a play he conceived called “Coming Up For Air: An Autojazzography.” His honors include the Martin Luther King Music Achievement Award from the city of Boston.

Pianist, composer and accompanist Berens plays in many different styles, specializing in avant-garde classical music, traditional classical music and free improvisation. He holds degrees in piano performance, composition and music therapy from Loyola Marymount University, California Institute of the Arts and Lesley University. As a collaborator, he enjoys working with solo vocalists and instrumentalists, chamber groups and choruses, and with dancers and actors. He is founder, pianist, and resident composer of the new music ensemble Sonic Liberation Players. Berens is the pianist at the UU Church of Reading and, with his wife, Jessica, runs the Berens Voice and Piano Studio out of Pepperell.

Lehmann is a versatile, widely renowned performer who has appeared with artists including Paquito D’Rivera, Danilo Perez, Dave Liebman, Luciana Souza and Dave Samuel’s Caribbean Jazz Project. He teaches at Berklee College of Music and Phillips Academy, and he has conducted clinics and workshops at Harvard University, Princeton University, Wellesley College, Oberlin College, Moscow Conservatory, Keimyung University in South Kore, and elsewhere. He has played on more than 60 recordings with musicians including the Mehmet Sanlikol Big Band, Felipe Salles, Mango Blue, Anat Cohen, Miguel Zenon and Randy Brecker. His international performances have included appearances in Bermuda, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey, at venues including Lincoln Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory and The Kennedy Center.

McLaughlin’s work has been heard all over the world. A band leader, sideman and member of the Grammy-nominated jazz group Either/Orchestra, he has performed on stages and in recording studios across the country and internationally in Spain, Italy, Thailand and Ethiopia.  More than 20 commercially available CDs feature McLaughlin, including his own debut as a leader, "Study of Light." McLaughlin teaches at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory of Music School of Preparatory and Continuing Education, and he is a published author, composer and arranger. He has shared the stage with a wide range of musicians, from jazz luminaries such as Don Byron, Steve Lacy, John Medeski, Danilo Perez and John Zorn, to rock musicians Willie “Loco” Alexander, Morphine and Peter Wolf, and country music star Roger Miller. A frequent collaborator with musicians from all over the globe, McLaughlin has also performed with Ethiopia’s great singers Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayhu Eshete.

October 31, 2022: Halalisa Singers celebrated founder Page in Arlington

This news announcement was published Monday, March 20, 2023, based on information from the Halalisa Singers and prepared for publication by Kim Haase, a YourArlington volunteer. It was updated Oct. 2 with the belated news of the last-minute cancellation due to the astute inquiry in early October by assistant to the editor Brynn O'Connor. The show now is to be rescheduled for Oct. 14, 2023.