Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Singing City with Noted Musicians and African Quilts

Singing City

Clem and I went to Philadelphia for a delayed Mother’s Day celebration with our daughter Beth and her family. She sang yesterday with Singing City, an old and revered Philadelphia chorus. Before the concert she introduced me to “I was Glad,” their first number, by playing this YouTube video for me.

It’s pretty amazing. You can watch just a minute or two to get a sense of the grandeur of the music and the procession. Or watch until the couple reaches the altar!

Beth between 2 women from the church choir, part of performance with Singing Cities.

Beth between 2 women from the church choir, part of performance with Singing City!

Of course I took pictures of Beth in the chorus. We sat above and close. I even got a video, posted on Facebook.

I had never heard of Anton Armstrong & Andre Thomas, featured at the concert. Armstrong is conductor of the famed St. Olaf Choir and conducts internationally. Thomas is head of choral music at The Florida State University and a composer. Apparently they are well-known among musicologists and often travel together to conduct and perform.

Anton Armstrong conducted first half and more at Singing Cities concert.

Anton Armstrong conducted first half and more at Singing City concert.

The first half of the program was a variety of unusual, mostly modern religious texts and poems. The second half was spirituals and songs arranged or composed by Thomas. The two men took turns conducting.

The singing was stunning, as Beth had said, with clear enunciation, brilliant phrasing, and a variety of dynamic textures.

Andre Thomas composed or arranged all the pieces in 2nd half of Singing Cities concert.

Andre Thomas composed or arranged all the pieces in 2nd half of Singing City concert.

I will give the program to our Music Director at The Unitarian Church in Westport Ed Thompson. He composes a lot of music himself and stays up to date on the choral music world.

New Instagram Account to Check Out

I like fashion and I like Chimamanda Adichie’s writing. If you do too, you may want to check her new Instagram account. You can find it here.

A display of small quilts accompanied Singing Cities concert

A display of small quilts accompanied Singing City concert

If you have followed her over the last few years, you know she loves fashion. She is devoting this account, run by two nieces, to Nigerian fashion.

Like much of my news about Nigerian writing, I found this on Ainehi Edoro’s blog Brittle Paper.

She said, “the Instagram account was set up to document [Adichie’s] ‘Wear Nigerian’ project. She’d decided to “wear mostly Nigerian brands for…public appearances.”

I wonder if there will be increased interest in the U.S. and elsewhere in Nigerian fashion. As Ainehi says, “Adichie is always on the road and makes appearances at lots of high-profile events, so her commitment to wearing mostly Nigerian brands to these events is no small gesture.”

Who will bring these fashion items to the U.S.?

400 Years of Nigerian History

Today I taught the last of six classes on “400 Years of Nigerian History” at The Bigelow Center for Senior Activities in Fairfield, CT. I had a good time. The people in the class said they enjoyed it too.

Over the six weeks, several participants told me why they chose this class. Two women said it was their granddaughters who got them interested in Africa. One granddaughter is in South Africa on a Fulbright Scholarship, teaching English; the other in Uganda for a visit. One man said his brother taught in Uganda in the 1960’s.

I loved this small quilt that was displayed with Singing Cities concert.

I loved this small quilt that was displayed with Singing City concert.

A woman said, “I’m a life-long Episcopalian. I’ve met many Nigerian priests from the Anglican Church who’ve come to the U.S.” Another lived on a kibbutz in the late 1960’s. A Nigerian refugee from the Biafran War came to stay for a few months.

Three class members who are on the curriculum committee asked if I would come back to teach something else about Nigeria. I would love to. Probably a class on the traditions and customs of Nigeria with a focus on the Igbo practices which I know best.

Chibok Girls Freed From Boko Haram

Several months ago 21 of the kidnapped Chibok girls were retaken from Boko Haram. Two weeks ago The New York Times and others reported on another 82 released in a prisoner exchange.

Until a few days ago, they were kept from their families. On Saturday I read that they were reunited with their families. The article did not say if they went home with the families.

The article concluded, “Both groups of freed girls have been in government care in the capital as part of a nine-month reintegration program that President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will oversee personally. Human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping the young women so long in the capital, far from their homes.”

Several people had questions about Boko Haram during my class this morning. The group supports a conservative view of Islam, with strict adherence to Koranic law. They became active after 2009 when they were attacked by the army. Several leaders were imprisoned. A few escaped the next year, more radical than before.

Boko Haram had been driven out of many towns and villages in the northeast where they had taken control. But many places are still not completely safe. The fight is ongoing.

I also told the class that Boko Haram’s presence is hardly felt in the south of Nigeria, including Lagos where both our sons live. People are aware, but there has been no attempt at an attack that I have ever heard about.

President Buhari did promise action against Boko Haram as part of his platform. I believe this helped him get elected. He has made progress. But more is needed.

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. As for who will bring Nigerian fashions to U.S., how about you, with your background in fashion, so lovingly described in your book? Judy

  2. I loved seeing Beth and hearing the music! It sounds like a wonderful trip.