The day after the Emanuel AME shooting, musician and avid music event organizer Lindsay Holler got in touch with McKenzie Eddy and Elliott A. Smith from BACE League of Charleston to brainstorm about putting on a show to honor the victims.
"This event is inspired by that and the community we saw and the issues we saw surface in the wake of that," Smith says.
The result is Hi Harmony, a free community concert under the historic roof of the Charleston Music Hall, where six very different supergroups, composed of many of the area's best musicians, will each perform a 20-minute set of songs over the course of three hours. "We're sort of trusting that if we put a lot of really good musicians in one room in one night, all from really diverse genres that therefore have really diverse audiences that follow those musicians, that it'll make for a beautiful night one way or another," Smith says.
Between each set, community leaders will address the audience in hopes of continuing conversations about race and raising questions on where we can go from here. "It's just so complex, and maybe that's part of the answer, is that societies are complex," Smith says. "We've seen some really moving displays of unity and community, but issues that are entrenched in a status quo take time. They just take time, and so I think that's more of what we're looking at. I mean, there are some good things and bad things and some things you can fix now, and then there are other things that are going to take a lot of time and a lot of commitment. And at the end of the day, it's all rooted in relationships and understanding."
The Praise Charleston Combined Gospel Choir
Musical Directors: Mrs. Shari Broomfield and Rev. Da'rrell Ravenell
By day, Mrs. Shari Broomfield is a career coach for Palmetto Youth Connections. By night, she can be found serving her church and singing gospel music. So when a member of her family, whose sibling was one of the Emanuel Nine, got wind of what Hi Harmony was trying to put together, Broomfield was called to help lead the way. She's organized a group of vocalists and musicians from Charleston and North Charleston to perform inspirational and gospel music.
"A lot of people don't listen to gospel like I do, but hopefully there will be a few songs that everyone can enjoy," she says.
For Broomfield, God is the very center of gospel. "And God is love," she adds. That's why she thinks gospel is good for not only herself, but also her community.
"Everywhere, people just need to know how to feel love. Once we learn how to love each other for who we are and how we are, we'll all be in a better place — not just Charleston, but everywhere," she says. "We tend to think about only ourselves but we need to move away from our selfish ways, and think of your brother and your sister. And then we'll be in a better land."
The Whole Shebang
Musical Director: Lindsay Holler
Alt Country, Latin, Jazz, Folk, Indie, Rock
Hi Harmony founder Lindsay Holler has rounded up an eclectic group of musicians — Lee Barbour, Mackie Boles, Conor Donohue, Jordan Igoe, Vikki Matsis, Hunter Park, Sam Sfirri, and Leah Suarez — that will, in a set of multiple genres, communicate the message of unity. That's why Holler wanted to put this whole shebang together in the first place.
"We just want to keep the positive vibes going," she says. "Our city could have reacted in so many ways to that tragedy, and we acted a certain way and it was a humbling experience ... there's still a lot of work to be done with community relationships. It's not something you can ever stop doing or turn your back on."
Holler hopes this event is a good place to start. "If you're involved with the community, then you have a better sense of it," she says. "Get out and be around your neighbors and that way, you'll care about them more."
Musical Director: Bill Carson
Rock 'n Roll
A Shrimp Records family jam is usually an all-night affair but for Hi Harmony, Punks&Snakes' Jack Burg, musician and producer Andy Dixon, Mechanical River's Joel Hamilton, Michael Flynn, Bill Carson, and Shovels & Rope's Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent will perform an abbreviated set packed with feel-good hits.
"It could be said that the Shrimp Records Family Band is a nice example of brotherly love, mutual support, etc., but mostly I just hope that our music can be a good soundtrack for folks to look one another in the eye and smile," says Carson, who believes music is a great way to facilitate the community gathering peacefully, without socioeconomic barriers.
"Honestly, I love Charleston with all my heart, but we clearly have a ways to go on our path toward realizing a peaceful and just community," he says. "I don't presume to know how that can be done, but I reckon it's going to require a lot more of the kind of soul-searching we've all been doing this summer."
Jazz Artists of Charleston
Musical Director: Charlton Singleton
Under the leadership of Charleston Jazz Orchestra artistic director Charlton Singleton, members of the JAC — Robert Lewis, Dr. Jill Tehar Lewis, Gerald Gregory, Kevin Hackler, Tyler Ross, Ron Wiltrout, and Jeremy Wolf — will explore various styles and eras of jazz. For Singleton, it seemed only natural to address the state of the community with music.
"With everything that's going on, the conversations are really coming to the forefront about all of the things that happened in our city, in our state, in the Southeast, and the nation. And this sort of concert shows the fact that here in Charleston, we don't have a perfect world, but there's a large majority — especially in the music community — that get along very well, work together very well, and work together frequently, probably more than people understand or know," Singleton says. "And we all have a general love for each other and for what we do. We're very supportive, we're very willing to lend a hand."
For these musicians, collaboration outside the jazz genre is a frequent occurrence, and so collaborating for the cause was a no-brainer.
"We've had performances where we've had some of the more rock musicians or folk musicians who've participated with us — and vice versa, where a lot of jazz musicians who have gone out and performed and recorded with a number of musicians who aren't necessarily known for playing jazz," he says. "So to have that kind of diversity is really, really a wonderful thing. And to have it on display in front of such a big crowd who's gong to be there is just going to be very powerful, very emotional, very spectacular."
The Very Hypnotic Soul Band
Musical Directors: McKenzie Eddy and Elliott A. Smith
Hip-Hop, Soul, Spoken Word
BACE League of Charleston founders McKenzie Eddy and Elliott A. Smith will lead the pack in an atmospheric, groove-centric set featuring Marcus Amaker, James Choate, Zandrina Dunning, Alicia Modoor, Matt Monday, Michael Quinn, Quentin Ravenel, Charlton Singleton, Amire Solomon, Benjamin Starr, and Corey Webb.
By combining hip-hop and spoken word with neo-soul and R&B, the supergroup aims to demonstrate not only expert musicianship but also examples of true community, which Smith says can only be achieved through real relationships.
Expect to hear new, interesting twists on old favorites as well as original songs, poetry, and other surprises.
"We've got all of these really cool ingredients, and I'm excited just to see how they all come together," Smith says about the event. "I think it's going to be memorable and pretty positive."
Hearts & Plugs
Musical Director: Dan McCurry
Founder of local indie-rock record label Hearts & Plugs, Dan McCurry has taken the non-touring acts from the roster for a set of interesting collaboration, covers, and original music from members of the High Divers, Infinitikiss (Nic Jenkins), Michael Flynn, and Hermit's Victory. The set will also include two originals: "All That I Have" Jenkins and "My Love Will Bring You Back" from Flynn.
One of the first things that struck McCurry when approached about the event is that this kind of performance simply doesn't happen, ever.
"When they put the lineup together, I thought, 'There is no reason for any of these people to play the same show, all of these entities and cross-cultural music groups,'" he says. "So that's really cool to see how much is coming together here, and it seems to artistically align with what has happened in the community — people coming together and supporting each other culturally."
McCurry also gets the feeling that as everyone gathers in the name of the Emanuel Nine, it's going to be like going to church. "I'm preparing myself emotionally," he admits.