Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir

African American folk music

While singing for the play Letters from a New England Negro in 1992, Linda Tillery was introduced to some field recordings of traditional African American music.  “My God!,” she exclaimed, “This is what I’ve been looking for!”  Tillery poured over documentary recordings and ethnomusicological research to uncover a vast treasure trove of spirituals, work songs, field hollers, and slave songs.  Within months, she assembled the Cultural Heritage Choir: Rhonda Benin, Elouise Burrell, Bryan Dyer, and Simon Monserrat.  Since then, the Oakland-based Cultural Heritage Choir has gained international recognition for its artistry, having performed in 13 countries and released three CDs.

In 2007, the Cultural Heritage Choir received a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program to support a collaboration with English acapella choir, Black Voices, on a project called “A Long Way Home.”  This collaboration explored the musical legacy of the slave trade from Africa, through the Caribbean to the New World.  Outreach activities with local African American choirs culminated in performances in May 2007.