Master Singers and Ko-Thi Dance together in “Voices of Liberation”

March 2, 2010

Voices, drums and African dance combine in a unique concert experience for Milwaukee audiences in early March. The Master Singers of Milwaukee and Ko-Thi African Dance come together for a performance of Missa Luba, a Catholic Mass in the Congolese style for tenor soloist, chorus and percussion. In this unprecedented collaboration, Ko-Thi Dance founding Artistic Director Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker will create original choreography for Ko-Thi dancers to perform during the Mass movements.


“When I first played through the score of the Mass, I realized, 'This has to be danced!' says Master Singers Music Director Eric Townell. “Bringing it to Ferne and Ko-Thi was the natural next step.”


“It has been one of my favorite pieces since graduate school,” Caulker says about the Missa Luba. “It's an authentic representation of liturgical tradition in the Congo in post-Colonial times, maybe the best one we have.”


Missa Luba captures the style of performance developed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Guido Haazen, working with a choir of men and boys in the Congo in the early 1960's. Energetic drumming propels every movement of the 15-minute work. Although the musical arrangement is thoroughly notated, much improvisation is required from the chorus and percussionists. The percussion parts will be played by Ko-Thi Dance's own ensemble, trained by Ms. Caulker. “The challenges are many, on both sides, but this project has had an exciting sizzle since Ferne and I first talked it over,” says Townell. “The choir is enjoying the discovery of music completely new to them.”


Ko-Thi Dance will offer several shorter selections without chorus, and the Master Singers will offer a segment of a cappella music for choir without the dances and drums, so the evening will be well-rounded and diverse. The choir's selections include “Glory Hallelujah,” an up-tempo Gospel-style work by Milwaukee composer Wallace Cheatham. Music by Bobby McFerrin and other traditional African works complete the musical selections.


Ko-Thi Dance Company, now celebrating its 40th season in Milwaukee, is dedicated to the preservation and performance of traditional African-American and Caribbean dance and drumming. Comprising artists trained in the history, mythology and techniques of art forms within the African Diaspora, the fully-professional company uses a myriad of traditional instruments, authentic costumes, infectious music and extraordinary dance to educate and bridge the gap between cultures. Ko-Thi Dance makes a vital educational contribution to the community through its Drumtalk and Ton Ko-Thi programs.


The Master Singers of Milwaukee, now in its 37th season and its seventh under Townell's direction, engages communities in Milwaukee and the region through distinctive programming and energetic educational programs involving vocalists at the high school and university levels. The choir, designated as a Touring Ensemble for Arts and Education by the Wisconsin Arts Board, regularly collaborates with the region's best arts companies, including most recently the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in Andreas Delfs's final performances here.


Performances of Voices of Liberation are scheduled for March 6th, 7:30 P.M., at the Hamilton Fine Arts Center, Sussex and Saturday, March 13th, 7:30 P.M. at the Zelazo Center, Peck School of the Arts on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus. Tickets are available through the Hamilton Fine Arts Center Box Office,, or through the performing ensembles, and at .




Voices of Liberation

March 6, 2010, 7:30 P.M.

Hamilton Fine Arts Center

W220 N6151 Town Line Road

Sussex, WI 53189

Information line: (262) 246-1973 ext. 1718


Voices of Liberation

March 13, 2010, 7:30 P.M.

Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts

Peck School of the Arts

2419 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Milwaukee, WI 53202



Edward Richards, Executive Director

Master Singers of Milwaukee

(262) 542-1154


Una Van Duvall, Managing Director

Ko-Thi Dance Company

(414) 273-0676

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