The Charge of Abolitionist Music Will Fill the UB Art Gallery Oct. 16

Performance will close exhibition of Underground Railroad art by Stephen Marc

Release Date: October 6, 2009 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Art Gallery will present "Get Off the Track," a performance by Buffalo's Hutchinson Family Revival that will mark the closing of "Stephen Marc: Passage on the Underground Railroad," an exhibition whose montages explore the network of secret routes and safe houses used by escaping enslaved African Americans.

The performance will take place Oct. 16 from 7-8 p.m. in the first floor gallery in the UB Center for the Arts, North (Amherst) Campus.

Co-sponsored by the UB Department of African American Studies, it will be free and open to the public.

The exhibition, also free and open to the public, will continue through Oct. 17. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For information, please call 716-645-6912.

The Hutchinson Family Revival is a Buffalo-based ensemble. Its members, Shirley Byczynski, Elynn Strzelec, Michael Harris and Andy Newbert, are directed by Richard Price and re-enact in period costume the music of The Hutchinson Family Singers, a group that toured the United States from 1840-80, presenting the popular music of the day.

UB Gallery Curator Sandra Firmin says the Oct. 16 performance is a fit closing for the Marc exhibition because the original Hutchinsons were social activists who used their music to campaign vigorously for such causes as abolition, women's rights and temperance.

"They often appeared at abolitionist meetings and rallies," she says, "singing anti-slavery songs between appearances by escaped slaves like Frederick Douglass and speeches by such prominent abolitionists as William Lloyd Garrison and Nathaniel P. Rogers."

"Get off the Track!" is a concert of anti-slavery songs sung at such meetings and rallies, and includes pieces written by the Hutchinsons and others, including popular 19th century British composer Henry Russell.

Firmin notes that the sheet music for many of songs performed by the Hutchinson Family Singers is held in the extensive sheet music collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

"A lot of them," she says, "are in songsters like 'The Anti-slavery Harp,' a collection of abolitionist songs edited by William Wells Brown, an escaped slave who lived in Buffalo in the late 1830s and whose work on a lake steamer permitted him to assist many other fugitive slaves in their escape to Canada."

Hutchinson Family Revival's repertoire also includes "Victorian Songs of Love and Longing;" "An American History Songbook," a Civil War program; and a program of songs on the theme of suffrage and women's history, "Let Woman Vote!" The group has appeared throughout New York State at many historic venues.

The UB Art Gallery is funded by the UB College of Arts Sciences, the Visual Arts Building Fund, the Seymour H. Knox Foundation Fine Arts Fund and the Fine Arts Center Endowment.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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