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Religions find common bond within music

Interfaith concerts set to offer thanks

November 23, 2002


Metro Detroit religious leaders are turning to music in their quest for interfaith harmony.

Two multicultural Thanksgiving celebrations, the first one tonight in Detroit and the second Wednesday in Royal Oak, will feature innovative musical collaborations.

"Music always has the power to bring people together, and the concert Saturday night should be a tremendous opportunity for people, coming from different backgrounds, to see how we're really all the same," said Rick May of Southfield, leader of the Jewish klezmer band Schmaltz that will collaborate with a Protestant gospel choir in Detroit.

Until this project, May had never performed with a gospel ensemble and many of the singers in the Metro Detroit Area Fellowship Choir had never heard klezmer, an Eastern European form of Yiddish folk music.

"This is my first time working with klezmer, but I know that this is going to be a very exciting evening of music," said Denard McClary of Detroit, founder of the 4-year-old gospel choir. "When we started rehearsing together, we clicked right away. They taught us 'Hatikvah,' Israel's national anthem. And we taught them 'Lift Every Voice and Sing.' "

The other interfaith musical collaboration is just as remarkable, said the Rev. Richard Singleton, head of the Detroit-based Metropolitan Christian Council and a coordinator of the Wednesday service in Royal Oak.

"In September, we brought together 10 high-school-age youth from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha'i and Sikh traditions, two kids from each tradition, to help us plan this service," Singleton said. "And they said they wanted to write a song."

Singleton said he was surprised at their ambitious goal. But the result is: "If Only You Knew What I've Been Through," a multi-media number that will be the centerpiece of the 16th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration.

The klezmer-gospel concert, cosponsored by the Jewish Community Council in Bloomfield Hills and a group of Protestant pastors from Detroit, is a new event but organizers expect to draw hundreds to the free program.

The annual interfaith service on the day before Thanksgiving usually draws a crowd of 300 to 600, Singleton said.

Tonight, the 7:30 Interfaith Thanksgiving Concert is hosted by New Light Baptist Church, 5240 W. Chicago just north of Grand River, Detroit. Wednesday, the 7:30 p.m. Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is at St. Dennis Catholic Church, 2200 E. 12 Mile at the southwest corner of Stephenson and 12 Mile, Royal Oak.

Contact DAVID CRUMM at 313-223-4526 or

©Copyright 2002, Detroit Free Press (MI)

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