By Okon Ekpenyong
Thursday, May 18, 2023 evening in Downtown Columbus was a spectacular one, and, on top of that, seeing families singing along to some of the timeless classics was simply perfect. With 500 members of the Harmony Community Chorus singing their hearts out, harmony to soulful rendition, beats-to-beat, this was an intimate night to remember.
Observing the Harmony project at Columbus Commons for the first time was like suddenly alleviating all the pain in my bones, and all those memories of joining my high school choir came flooding back as if I were still there.
“Our first concert was a two-night show at the Lincoln Theater in December 2009 that we started rehearsing for in August,” said Jeffrey A Benedict, one of the original members.
I joined the choir club as an elective in my tenth-grade year in high school, and it remains one of my most cherished memories of my secondary education.
Since 2010, Harmony Project have been bringing different communities from different backgrounds, cultures, and income statuses together to serve, share and uplift the spirit of the community simply through music.
In terms of pointing out which memorable moments from watching my first Harmony Project Concert stood out, all of them. The Singing was excellent, the instrumental moments were terrific, and David Brown, the founder, conducted the event enthusiastically.
For example, a 14-year-old Haitian girl who’s only been in the country less than a year performed to such a large audience for the first time, and she was brilliant.
Then surprisingly, receiving a few musical instruments, such as a keyboard and others by the founder David Brown and from a local company, left her sobbing and uncontrollably, which led me and others to cry as well. In his remarks, Brown praised the girl’s academic achievements and musical background while assuring her that she would be successful no matter what she did, but since playing the piano was her first love, “here’s the opportunity to bring that passion back,” said Brown.
There are several programs that the organizations offer, including volunteer community service, harmony community chorus, student arts, community arts, one family, and prison arts.
I mentioned memorable moments earlier; another one that came to mind was the organization working with prison inmates. During the organization’s concert series, they worked with several inmates inviting them to join the Harmony Community Chorus on stage to sing. Last night, they brought them out; it felt like Columbus Commons lawn was flooding because it was an emotional but exciting moment for everyone.
Experiences from its members:
A former president of Columbus Gives Back, Diana Yates, an organization that works with young professionals to volunteer in the community, told the New Americans Magazine that she recently visited one of the prisons with which the organization partners and that the experience was extraordinary.
In 2017, Yates received a call of a lifetime to become a member of the Harmony Project after being on the waiting list for two years. In six years, she had accumulated countless memories that may one day lead to a book deal if she so chooses.
“It was because of the Harmony Project that I walked through the doors of the Pickaway Correctional Institution this morning. It was because of Harmony Project that I could serve and sing with men who live a life I do not understand — but we do understand music the same way,” Yates said.
“Harmony Project really, truly lives its mission out loud. Beyond prisons, they hold arts programs in schools and with differently-abled adults. They organize city-wide volunteer projects. Their music brings people together, and let me tell you, the lyrics hit differently when your vision is the community and social harmony”, Yates also reiterated.
“I love that we are a group of people from different racial, religious, political, and economic backgrounds who can come together and work for our community through the thread of music. The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself and others is simple. We all want the same something, which is a better quality of life,” REGGIE JACKSON, DRUMMER, HARMONY PROJECT, told the Columbus Foundation.
The Harmony project aims to create a more inclusive society through arts, education, and volunteerism to break down social barriers, bridge community divides, and empower the people’s voices.
“Each participant must have the Commitment to serve the community and commit to a certain number of hours,” founder David Brown told CBS News in 2016.
“I learned by learning from people who are different from me, and I would love for the world to keep moving in that direction,” David told CBS News in 2016.
Through Harmony Project, local, county, state, national, and international organizations work together to transform lives, engage people, and inspire movement through music.
Harmony Project Massage to fans:
Harmony Project put out a statement after the concert: “Thank you everyone who attended Concert For Community! Seeing so many of you join us for a night of disrupting dissonance and building social harmony made our hearts soar. Truly an unforgettable night for our team and Chorus”.
Columbus Commons Concert Series:
Something fun and unique is always happening at Columbus Common, an outdoor amphitheater for all ages. Families can enjoy Disney movie night, Harmony Project concerts, Popcorn Pops Concerts for Kids with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and more.
For adults, or as I call it, the grown and sexy 2023 Picnic with the Pops concert series
featuring Columbus Symphony Orchestra with National Recording Artist Ne-Yo, Ben Folds, and more.
But if you want a more intimate evening, the Boyz II MEN and Summer 614 concert will bring old-school and current R&B and Hip-Hop artists to the Columbus Commons.
Visit Columbus Commons for more information and to see other lineups.
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