Guest Blog: Michael Solomon Williams On The COMMON AND KIND Concert
Singer Michael Solomon Williams talks about the evolution of the annual not-for-profit concert, 'Common and Kind', which is held in the Union Chapel in Islington, London. In a climate of rife intolerance, racism, rising nationalism, this joyously uplifting concert series is a spectacularly collaborative effort from a vast gamut of the city's communities and International Artists who have come together with a simple yet powerful aspiration: to employ language - and music - to unite us.
On the morning of 24 June 2016, motivated by divisive events and rhetoric in the UK and across the world, I posted on Facebook, calling upon people to respond positively and collaboratively to division.
The response was instant and international. Thousands of people came forward, from pop and classical singers, West End, folk and opera stars to choirs and more from all backgrounds across the world. In an age of division, music could unite like nothing else.
To channel the offerings of so many, I wrote the song "Human Kind". It was conceived to be adaptable for all genres and abilities, and designed so that anyone, anywhere could participate, creating an international music video bringing people together from all countries, communities and cultures.
"Human Kind" was recorded at the end of an incredible collaborative concert just a month later at the Union Chapel in Islington, London. With a huge line-up of solo artists and a massed choir of 400 people, it was a truly extraordinary evening of music spanning styles and crossing borders, all organised in a matter of weeks.
Since that concert, choirs and soloists from across the world sent in recordings to complete the single. They included refugees from Cambodia, China, Congo, El Salvador, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, West Indies, and Zambia, and groups from Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Scotland, India, Malaysia, the UK and USA.
The single features soloists Cassidy Janson, at the time starring in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, UK opera star Dame Sarah Connolly, US soul sensation J. Hoard, Bengali pop icon Saida Tani, and nine members of multi-Grammy Award-winning jazz fusion megastars Snarky Puppy.
"Human Kind" was released in 2017 and dedicated to Jo Cox, whose immortal words feature in the chorus. That single was definitely all I had planned to do, but the concert was so immensely powerful for all involved that I was urged to continue and build on what we had started.
In that concert, solo artists and groups from across the musical spectrum showed that, despite the temporary terms which might be used to divide them by genre, they were enhanced by their diversity and, with a choir of 400 which came together in an instant to create the most extraordinary sense of solidarity, this was clearly a potent movement which had to grow.
We returned in 2017, creating partnership workshops for the choir between refugees, LGBT asylum seekers and adult community groups from across London. We expanded our reach and impact further in 2018, adding partnerships between schools from across London, along with adult choir and refugee partnerships alongside another sensational line-up of solo artists.
Now in our fourth year, we have brought together even more schools from across London. In their partnership workshops, they have been singing together and learning about Jo Cox and Martin Luther King, and how language can be used to divide or unite. These workshops have been hugely inspiring and have made clear the importance of our work. Children are brought up to compartmentalise, divide and develop prejudices. It is obvious that we need to work positively; actively encouraging future generations to have open, curious and compassionate minds.
For adults, so many of whom are part of our work, we are never too old to learn, grow and develop new skills, be it the ability to sing together, or to reconsider a prejudice crystallised within us. If we believe the news, which again this week reports that we are more divided and pessimistic than ever, then the work of Common and Kind is exactly what we need right now. Join us!
Common and Kind will be at the Union Chapel in Islington on 27 June. Tickets and more information available from https://www.unionchapel.org.uk/event/27-06-2019-common-and-kind-2019/ and more information about the project at http://www.commonandkind.com
You can also watch the Human Kind video: