Keynote Speaker & Guest Vocalist: March 2, 2014 @ Unity of Indianapolis – 10AM
“Sole Music: A journey through an African American quilt of song”, traces Holt’s personal journey from the South, to Broadway and beyond, while outlining the emotive history of African-American music with emphasis on some of the most memorable upheavals, movements and triumphant shifts in American history.
Holt weaves music and narratives into a scenic quilt of American music through a vivid African American experience – beginning at the turn of the 20th Century to present day – giving special emphasis to music sung by the American slave to the songs of struggle that permeated the social landscape through the 1950s to present. Special emphasis is given to Black music and the musicians during the 1960s, arguably known as the most significant historical landmark and social turning point in the unfolding panorama of a growing culture and nation in transition. The performance charts the development of American music while intricately merging Holt’s encounter with music as a child and its profound effect on his life – from it’s birth in hymns, gospel and the blues, to jazz R&B, and the Broadway stage, ‘Sole’ guides the listener through an emotionally vibrant and authentic musical journey through time.
My grandmother was a self-taught pianist who taught me hymns and songs that I heard while attending Sunday morning church service at a very young age. I remember during our sessions her leaving ‘teaching mode” and going to this place where, even now, I can only describe as ‘another world’. She was transported to the place where she was no longer singing the song – the song was now singing her. The power that came through her off-pitch, raspy alto voice was enthralling and at the same time transforming. Experiencing my grandmother in this altered state opened me up to listen to music from a different hearing and perspective. I loved listening to Aretha sing while my mother prepared dinner, and I just as quickly tuned my ear to my father’s portable radio in the summer heat as Billie Holiday intoned “God Bless the Child” as if she were singing the contents of her memoir. Both voices were beautiful, but it was from where the story originated that captured me. My grandmother’s convicted tone and earnest offering had forever adjusted my “inner” ear.
I had the same reaction the first time I heard Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Carl Anderson. These singers had incredible vocal instruments, however, they had transcended the entanglement that comes with being celebrated and famous. It was apparent that they had surrendered to this thing called life being expressed through a melodic tone of music. It was if music was breathing them; coursing through them like a force of nature. They no longer had any say about the way in which the song was unfolding. They had yielded to the highest cause, and at that present moment they had become one with the highest. I was so moved by their vocal quality. I’d forget everything – what I was doing, who I was surrounded by, what I was sitting on, and even where I was. “I want to sing like Donny”, “I want to be like Carl Anderson”. I now know that I wasn’t just after the excellence exemplified in their performance. I was after the conviction and the element of life itself. My mind heard sweet tones and beautiful notes, my soul heard the experience that had called this powerful marriage into being: the marriage between creator and creation. And though I called it many things in trying to describe it: great eternal life, universal spirit, lover of my soul, infinite spirit, etc. it is all of these things yet to me it cannot be named. I just let it be, giving it permission to do what it wishes through and as me.