The power of music and love will be on display at a special event Sunday in Norfolk.
And for music lovers, the event offers a chance for amateurs to play and sing with real pros. The Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are hosting, with the city of Norfolk, CommUNITY: A Play-in & Sing-along as a way to respond to violence and fear through a show of brotherhood, unity and peace.
Christina Havens, vice president of orchestra activities, said people from the VSO and the city of Norfolk were at a meeting last year and started discussing, as an aside, the violence that had just occurred in Charlottesville, where white nationalists and counterprotesters battled and a woman was killed when a man identified as a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Havens said a consensus grew for a major response. After just two weeks of preparation, they put on an event that brought VSO’s professionals together with anyone who wanted to play an instrument or sing, and included dance and other art performances, and commentary from community leaders. The goal was to commemorate 9/11 and promote healing and peace.
Havens said they expect far more than the 700 people who showed up last year, and have switched the event from last year’s Decker Half Moone Center to Scope, for “maximum space and maximum flexibility.”
Here’s how it works. Bring your voice, violin, guitar, trumpet, tambourine or kazoo to Scope on Sunday. Registration begins at 2:30 p.m. Rehearse, if you like, from 3:30 to 4. And take part in, or simply take in, the event from 4:30 to 6.
VSO professionals and members from many of the region’s music ensembles and university and school bands will be there.
“The point is not to play classical music, but to express our humanity together,” Havens said.
Teens With a Purpose will do spoken-word performance. Elbert Watson, dance master at Norfolk Academy and former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will lead a dance performance. And people can join in for that, too.
Barbara Hamm Lee, host of “Another View” on WHRV-FM, will be the emcee, and Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander will present opening remarks.
It’s free, and parking at Scope is free, too. Register to participate at www.norfolk.gov/unityconcert. It’s not required, but it will allow you to download music in advance and sit with the orchestra, if any seats are left. The music selections will include “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Ode to Joy.”
“It doesn’t matter what level you’re at,” Havens said. “What matters is that you have a song to sing and you’re going to be singing it with neighbors.”