On Saturday, November 7, the American Baroque Orchestra (ABO) in partnership with the Housatonic Museum of Art will present a free online video performance entitled, “Little Liberia: Music from their Front Porch.” The concert will go online at 11:00 AM and can be viewed from the Housatonic Museum of Art’s website, www.HousatonicMuseum.org.
The program was recorded in the Housatonic Museum of Art’s Burt Chernow Galleries on Friday, October 23rd, and took inspiration from the currently running exhibition “Little Liberia” and an exhibition on view at that time, sculptor Rachel Owens’ “The Hypogean Tip,” which explored Bridgeport’s past, including Little Liberia. “The Hypogean Tip” exhibition was comprised of sculptures, such as large-scale casts of jewel-toned colored glass from the porch of the home of Mary Freeman (listed on the National Register of Historic Places).
The performance brings together the history of Bridgeport's Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses with music of the 17th through 19th centuries, highlighting overlooked composers of African descent. Just as the front porches of Little Liberia served as platforms for community discussion, the online performance imagines the intersection between inspired and accomplished composers of African descent who flourished in Europe, and the free black community that built Bridgeport's Little Liberia in the early 19th century.
The program will include music and melodies from the historic Little Liberia community, as well as composers including Joseph Bologne (1745-1799), George Bridgetower (1778-1860), and Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780), who also happened to be the first person of African heritage to vote in a British election.
“The early 19th century Bridgeport neighborhood Little Liberia was a safe haven for free Blacks, runaway enslaved persons from southern states, and individuals from Native American tribes in Connecticut. Front porches were a gathering place, and this concert captures the spirit of that gone but not forgotten community,” said Robbin Zella, Director of the Housatonic Museum of Art.
The concert was developed by ABO Artistic Director Mark Bailey, ABO Associate Artistic Director Kevin Sherwin, and ABO Concertmaster, Edson Scheid. A permanent link to the concert will be available at www.americanbaroqueorchestra.com/littleliberia.