The Independent Gay News
May 19, 2005

Harvest of Voices Celebrates Lake Worth’s Diversity

Donald Cavanaugh
Palm Beach Editor

On Sunday evening, May 1, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth became the vehicle through which award-winning Texas-based writer and actor Akin Babatunde and Lake Worth’s own internationally renowned Core Ensemble joined forces to celebrate the life of Lake Worth through the lives of its multi-faceted citizenry.

Aptly titled “Harvest of Voices,” the 90-minute long program sandwiched a day in Lake Worth be­tween two slices of last season’s hurricanes. It was an informal trip around town by the talented Mr. Babatunde who expressed not only the interest and wonder of an outsider but spoke out the parts of his interlocutors in their own voices.

Babatunde’s voice is a powerful instrument ranging from a high falsetto to a booming baritone. The fact it was amplified through the church’s sound system added a touch of the ethereal – especially when he first began moving up from the back of the church toward his disembodied voice projecting from the altar. The two emanations of his single voice never fully congealed into one, so even when he was on the altar steps, the electronic speakers gave a haunting near-echo to his words.

The Core Ensemble, a unique chamber trio of piano, cello and percussion (including marimba and vibraphone, further increased the combination of ethereal sound and earthy feel (or would that be earthy sound and ethereal feel?) – that reflects so many of the lives that are lived in Lake Worth and that were shared with the audience that night. They were further celebrated by the Ensemble’s selection of pieces including two original works by pianist Hugh Hinton and the St. Andrew’s choir rendition of St. Andrew’s Hymn of Praise by Norman Conaway.

Over 60 people were interviewed. To list them all would be too much. Suffice it to say that they covered the Lake Worth waterfront and included gays and lesbians and transvestites; Islanders, African Americans and whites; couples and singles, oldsters and youth; natives and newbies and retirees, the homeless, the disoriented and the drugged, and even a man who once chauffeured a king.

Akin Babatunde is an actor, director and writer whose career spans a range of venues including Off Broadway, Broadway, film and TV. He is based in Dallas and despite a nationwide range of activities, he continues to mentor aspiring artists in the Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex. Mr. Babatunde has worked extensively in South Florida with Florida Stage and Caldwell Theatre in Palm Beach County and La Mama in Broward County. He tours extensively with the Core Ensemble in his one-man show Of Ebony Embers – Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Core Ensemble, under managing director Margot Emery, is made up of cellist Tahira Whittington, pianist Hugh Hinton and percussionist Michael Parola, all three accomplished musicians in their own right. They have been together as the Core Ensemble since 1993. Their unique combination of cello, piano and percussion has broadened the definition of chamber music and they have been instrumental in weaving narrative and theatre into the chamber music experience as witnessed in “Harvest of Voices.”

They have performed around the country and the world and were the 2000 recipients of the annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Edward McDermott Award for Excellence in the Arts which included a $10,000 prize and a three-day residency on the MIT campus.

“Harvest of Voices” was sponsored in part by a $15,000 grant from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, one of four artist-in-residency programs sponsored by the Council and designed to pair artists (Babatunde and the Ensemble) with local organizations (Lake Worth and St. Andrew’s Church) to develop cultural projects that reflect the community.

The Core Ensemble includes (left to right) Hugh Hinton, Tahira Whittington, Akin Babatunde and Michael Parola.

Photo: Emilio Vazquez


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