In 2015, Khari Wendell McClelland retraced the steps of his great-great-great grandmother Kizzy and discovered the songs that likely accompanied her and thousands of others as they escaped US slavery. In sharing this music – which are reinvented through contemporary styles like hip hop, funk and soul – Khari is brought face to face with his own “unrecorded” heritage and the realities and myths of one of our quintessential historic narratives: the Underground Railroad.
Freedom Singer is a documentary-style piece of theatre that blends Khari Wendell McClelland’s original music with 1850s freedom songs, verbatim interview excerpts, and first-hand stories. It tells of McClelland’s journey to find the music that would have accompanied his great-great- great-grandmother, an escaped slave who walked to Ontario, lost her legs to the cold, had two children with a British-Canadian, then returned to Detroit after emancipation.
Directed by Project: Humanity’s Andrew Kushnir, co-created and performed by McClelland, along with JUNO nominee Toronto soul singer Tanika Charles and acclaimed Vancouver guitarist Noah Walker, Freedom Singer is a rare musical journey through the history of the Underground Railroad and the songs that carried freedom seekers northward to Canada.
This October, Urban Ink is proud to bring this “must-see” theatre production to Vancouver at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre.
Freedom Singer opens October 7 at 8pm and continues through October 18 with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. October 8 is Pay-What-You-Can-Admission; October 10 is ASL Translation and Talk-back night, and October 17 is Talkback Night.