Black History Month concert dedicated to late choir director

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Feb. 26—ALBANY ─ Lift Every Voice 2022, a free concert celebrating Black History Month, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Albany Municipal Auditorium in downtown Albany.

This year's Lift Every Voice concert, the first since 2019, is dedicated to the late Anthony Miller, former choir director at Albany and Dougherty County high schools, Frank Wilson, who is organizing the event in partnership with the Albany Museum of Art, said. Kenneth S. Nugent, whose law firm has an office in Albany, is the presenting sponsor of the event.

"We lost him late last year, and we just miss him so much — his energy and his professionalism," Wilson said.

Appropriately, the featured group for the evening of music will be the combined choirs of the Dougherty County School System.

The concert is named for Lift Every Voice and Sing, a hymn of prayer, freedom, faithfulness, and thanksgiving. Known as the black national anthem because of its historic importance on black culture in the United States, its lyrics are from a circa 1900 poem by James Weldon Johnson that addresses the struggles of black Americans following the Reconstruction era. His words were set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in the early 1900s.

Wilson began the Lift Every Voice concert as an annual event conducted in February during Black History Month when he was executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute. The first two (2014 and 2015) were conducted at Shiloh Baptist Church. They were followed by one at Albany State University and then two at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.

"This was one of my brainchildren when I was with the Civil Rights museum," Wilson said. "Because many people have been asking me about it, I decided, let me step out on faith and make this happen. I put the wheels together and everything came together. I reached out to the museum (AMA) because they had helped with the last few."

"The AMA is very pleased to partner with our long-time friend and collaborator Mr. Frank Wilson and Mr. Kenneth Nugent to embrace the musical gifts southwest Georgia musicians have to offer," AMA Executive Director Andrew J. Wulf said. "Perhaps there is nothing quite like the healing modality of music, enjoyed in congregation with a broad swath of Albany residents, that could better honor Black History Month."

In addition to the DCSS combined choir, Lift Every Voice 2022 will feature music by the Albany Symphony Orchestra and performances by the Lee County School System chorale, The Saints of God House of Prayer Choir, Willie Moody, Chevalier Coleman Sr., and the Gethsemane Worship Center Choir. Directors will be Erin Evans of Monroe Comprehensive High School, Deese Brown of Westover High School, Jaton Johnson of Dougherty Comprehensive High School, and Raquel Ewings of Radium Springs Middle School.

Wilson said when he started the annual program, he saw music as a bridge where young people in the Albany area could meet.

"They are what started this whole concert idea," Wilson said. "I was looking at how we could engage the young to be together, just get along with one another, and not worry about what school they went to, whether it was public school or private school. One thing I found out is that music has a way of getting past a lot of things."

He said the program, which will last about 90 minutes, will start at 6:30 p.m.

"It's a school night, so we want to be cognizant of that," Wilson said.

In returning the event to the Municipal Auditorium, Wilson said, "We were very fortunate" to get numerous community sponsors."