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HIGHER CALLING

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The Brooklyn Arts Council is taking music out of Brooklyn’s churches and putting it out for everyone to enjoy in Prospect Park. On Sept. 15, BAC presents "Praise in the Park," a free program of traditional, religious music from around the world at the park’s Greek temple-styled Peristyle.

The focus of this concert is Catholic folk music traditions with a special emphasis on processionals and music performed to honor saints.

Artists performing in "Praise in the Park," curated by BAC folklorist Kay Turner, include The Giglio Band, led by Danny Vecchiano. This 10-piece group usually plays atop the five-story spire carried as part of the annual Dance of the Giglio at the feast of San Paolino d’Nola in Williamsburg. At "Praise in the Park" they will perform songs in honor of St. Paulinus. (Although for this concert, the Giglio Band will have their feet firmly planted on the ground.)

The dance of the Giglio is an ancient Italian tradition that came to America with immigrants who arrived at the end of the 19th century. The festival can be traced back 1,600 years to Nola, Italy.

Filmmaker Tony De Nonno, in his 2001 documentary "Heaven Comes to Brooklyn in July," reports that in the 4th century, the town of Nola was overrun by a North African band of warriors who kidnapped Nola’s young men and brought them home as slaves. San Paolino, then the bishop of Nola, gained fame when he liberated Nola’s men from a North African sultan. When he returned with the men, the townspeople brought him lilies - the inspiration for the design of the Giglio, or "lily."

Also on the "Praise in the Park" program are Los Afortunados, a band led by Felix Sanabria, who will play "palo congo," drumming music that weds African and Catholic religious traditions. According to Turner, this Spanish song tradition references Catholic saints but praises Congolese spirits.

Mariachi Real de Mexico, a seven-piece ensemble, will play music honoring Santa Cecilia, the Mexican patron saint of music. Founders Ramon Ponce Sr. and Ramon Ponce Jr. organize the Santa Cecilia Feast celebration at Sacred Heart Church on Clermont Avenue.

La Troupe Makandal, will perform Haitian music performed during "rara," or Lent. Rara’s irreverent song lyrics juxtapose Christian and voodoo chants, according to Turner. From the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, bands of musicians, dancers and devils thread through the Haitian countryside, transforming the season into a blend of voodoo magic and the Christian story of redemption.

According to Turner, rara is both the name of the bands and the season and may be a Kikongo word for the winding stroll of the musicians. Rara bands’ trademark instrument is the vaksin, a bamboo trumpet.

Finally, the Catholic Melkite Church of the Virgin Mary choir, from Park Slope, will sing traditional liturgical songs in Arabic and Greek.

The Brooklyn Arts Council presents "Praise in the Park: Musical Expressions of Faith" on Sept. 15, from 1 pm to 6 pm, at the Prospect Park Peristyle.

To reach the concert site, enter the park at Park Circle (Prospect Park Southwest and Parkside Avenue) and walk north on South Lake Drive.

Bring lawn chairs and blankets. For more information, call Brooklyn Arts Council at (718) 625-0080. The concert is free.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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