A Song Every­one Can Sing:’ Cel­e­brat­ing 10 Years of LiveConnections

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British vocal ensemble VOCES8 performs at Temple Performing Arts Center this weekend. (Photo by Andy Staples.)
British vocal ensemble VOCES8 performs at Temple Performing Arts Center this weekend. (Photo by Andy Staples.)

For the last decade, LiveConnections has been on a mission to inspire learning and build community through music-making in Philadelphia. In residence at World Café Live, this local nonprofit has reached over 38,000 participants through its workshops, school residences, and concert series. LiveConnections mission is to bring music to populations who don’t always have access to the opportunity to engage with real artists—including people with disabilities.

“Accessibility was our focus from the start,” explains executive director Melinda Steffy. “We wanted to create music programming for as many people as possible and figure out what we could do to eliminate barriers for people who don’t have access to live music. We began with a collaboration with Art-Reach to provide adults with cognitive disabilities music workshops.”

Two years ago, when Steffy and the LiveConnections staff and board started thinking about how to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, they knew that they wanted to incorporate all three area of LiveConnections work: music education, accessibility, and a live-music experience.

Singing seemed like an ideal way to do so. From there, the idea of “A Song Everyone Can Sing” started to take shape.

Choir Partnerships

LiveConnections work is focused on community partnerships—and that is where staff began the work of building what will be a a multimedia community-sing extravaganza, to be held on Sunday, March 10, at Temple Performing Arts Center.

One of LiveConnections' partners, Germantown Recovery Community, a mental-health and drug-and-alcohol recovery program, already had a choir, so that was a natural place to begin. They also reached out to other partners, including Northeast High School, Our Lady of Confidence Day School (a school for teens with intellectual disabilities), and the Overbrook School for the Blind, all of which will be featured in “A Song Everyone Can Sing.” The music itself has been built through an intensely collaborative process of workshops with the partner choirs; composer Jay Fluellen; movement artist Shavon Norris ,who is creating ways for bodies to participate; and poet Daniel Simpson, who is working with the choirs to generate text that will be used in the performance.

VOCES8, a renowned vocal ensemble from Britain that leads innovative music-education workshops around the world, will also perform selections spanning jazz, pop, folk and classical and showcase their innovative “VOCES8 method,” which ties rhythm and sound to neurological development.

Embedding inclusive space and design

Because inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities is at the heart of LiveConnections' work, the community sing will be accessible in many important ways. Programs will be available in braille, there will be an ASL interpreter, and a quiet space will be available for people with sensory sensitivities. The sing will take place at an ADA-accessible space—which is not easy to find for a vocal performance. Many take place in Philadelphia’s historic churches, which can be great for acoustics but not for access in wheelchairs.

Another aspect of the sing’s music accessibility comes from another partner, Drexel University’s Excite Center, which uses technology to create ways to visualize sound that will be projected on a large screen at the concert.

Tickets to the event are only $1. Advance registration is required at LiveConnections.org.

LiveConnections presents A Song Everyone Can Sing: A Community Sing Featuring VOCES8, Sunday, March 10, at 3pm.

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