City of Oakland Chorus, Jacqueline Hairston, Elsie Giani Honored

Director to conduct her “Spiritual Arrangements” at Carnegie Hall By Barbara Fluhrer

Jacqueline Hairston

There’s truly something to sing about in Oakland. The city’s singing employees were applauded by the City Council for bringing joy to the city, especially during Christmas. The Council chamber, normally the place for hearings and law-making, was recently converted into a concert hall, to hear Jacqueline Hairston, along with pianist Mary Watkins, direct The City and Port of Oakland Employees’ Chorus. The chorus was honored with a City Council Proclamation for their more than 70 years “of Annual Holiday Concerts.” The Chorus recognized its founder, Elsie Giani, who, at age 97, is still an ardent and vivacious Soprano in the chorus, which gave its first performance in 1941 in Oakland’s City Hall Rotunda, the site of its annual appearances during the holidays. Hairston, the Chorus’ former accompanist, has been the Director for three years. Pianist Mary Watkins, also a composer, wrote the new Oakland opera production, “Dark River,” based on the history of the SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) and the biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, the voting rights activist and civil rights leader. Watkins’ “Five Movements in Color,” will be presented in February, 2011, by the Columbia College of Black Music Research in Chicago. Hairston, a favored composer of internationally renowned soprano Kathleen Battle, was Battle’s guest composer-arranger at her “Evening With Kathleen Battle: The Underground Railroad”, this past Spring with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Morgan State University Choir.  Hairston’s newest original piano work is heard as the background music for the 6-CD compilation series: The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman, published by Sounds True, Inc. Hairston has been invited to be Guest Conductor in 2012 at New York’s Carnegie Hall to conduct her own Spiritual arrangements for invited choristers participating from around the country.
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