ETHEL will mark the winter solstice on Dec. 21 with a polyrhythmic nod to Africa. The group will bring
, a collaborative show that features Ron Kunene and his South African choral group, Themba, to the Winter Garden at New York’s World Financial Center.
The free performance, one of ETHEL’s signature TruckStop® shows and its fifth annual solstice concert, will include a distinctly rocking version of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” Zulu chanting, and West African rhythms laid down by percussionist Robert Levin. Also on the bill is Francis Jocky, an acclaimed singer and guitarist who was born in Cameroon, raised in Paris, and now lives in New York.
The show doesn’t focus on the winter solstice per se; it’s best described as a mash-up of cultural musical influences and life-affirming vibes.
“The music will run from South African to ETHEL favorites to pop hits, with a hint of classical,” says Ralph Farris, ETHEL’s violist. “It’s going to be a fun, fun show.”
I don’t doubt that. I attended a rehearsal the other night and caught a couple of the pieces that are scheduled for the solstice event. Singer/guitarist Tuelo Mina, backed by ETHEL, delivered an astonishing solo vocal performance. She then teamed up members of Themba to practice a raucous, inventive version of the “Hallejuh,” which included chants, dancing, and a surprise transition into Toto’s “Africa.”
On the shortest day of the year, TruckStop®: Themba will leave a lasting impression. And it’s a great option for those who have had their share of holiday odes to chestnuts and sleigh bells.
The performance starts at 7 p.m. under the palms of the Winter Garden.