Black History Month Poster

GU Choir combines music and poetry in "Can You See?."

In celebration of Black History Month, Gonzaga Concert Choir and Discantus Treble Chorus will present “Can You See?” on Sat., Feb. 27. The concert will interconnect music and poetry on an interactive, virtual platform. “Can You See?” is conducted by Timothy Westerhaus, director of choirs and vocal studies, and music professor Amy Porter, and involves 80 Gonzaga Choir students and guest poetry readers. 

By celebrating past Black composers Nathaniel Dett, Undine Smith Moore and Florence Price, “Can You See” enlightens viewers of racism, the struggle for inclusion and the obstacles faced while seeking a more just society. The concert will also feature songs from four active Black composers, including Zanaida Robles, a conductor, singer and composer who virtually collaborated with GU Choir. 

Westerhaus said that Robles’ song includes segments of the “Star Spangled Banner” to encourage listeners to reflect on social movements like Black Lives Matter, marriage equality and immigrant rights.

In addition to Robles’ piece, GU Choir will also perform “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” by composer Joel Thompson. Within his song, Thompson features the final words of Black men who had been murdered by police and white supremacists.  

Gonzaga Colleagues of Color Workforce Affinity Group are to join Gonzaga Choir as poetry readers, sharing works by poets Claudia Rankine, Joe Morton, Natasha Trethewey and Maya Angelou. Jacquelyn Lee, vice president of GU's Black Student Union, will share her own piece, “Trapped.”   

This year, GU Choir intends to self-educate on current injustices and highlight composers who are people of color within its concerts. 

“Choir has worked diligently to approach repertoire with an element of sensitivity and consideration for marginalized voices,” said senior Isabel Parra. “GU Choirs seeks to amplify [marginalized voices] during this Black History Month.” 

With the music performed in “Can You See?” GU Choir also aims to raise awareness of the current presence of systemic racism and urgency for inclusivity. 

“The subject matter of inclusivity is incredibly relevant. During a time of political polarization and animosity, it is important to remember our humanity, and even more, to nurture our ability to see humanity in others,” said Parra.

“Can You See?” is free for GU students and community members to join. GU Choir encourages concert attendees to donate to the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center and the Carl Maxey Center. Both organizations are active and influential within the Black community in Spokane. 

The concert will begin at 7 p.m. through Slido, an interactive platform that will allow viewers to engage in the live concert at Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center through computer or smartphone. 

Register to attend “Can You See?” through the link: https://gonzaga.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TA7kZoBVTlSYX1SNbnTm9Q

Natalie Rieth is an arts & entertainment editor. Follow her on Twitter: @natalie_rieth.

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