Here in the Northeast we don’t tend to hear much of a fuss made over the holiday known as Juneteenth, even though New York is one of the 42 states that confer it official observance status. But down South, the 19th of June – also known as African American Emancipation Day or Freedom Day – has been a big deal for more than a century.
The Emancipation Proclamation may have taken effect as of January 1, 1863, but the rebel states were in no hurry to get the word out to their enslaved populations that they had been legally freed. It took until June 19, 1865 for Union general Gordon Granger to deliver a public reading of General Order No. 3, which announced “an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves,” to the people of Galveston, Texas. They were just about the last to know. The date has been commemorated with parades, street fairs and family reunions throughout the former Confederacy ever since, and the term “Juneteenth” has been used for it since at least 1903.
It’s a fair bet that Juneteenth was what the late, great jazz singer Abbey Lincoln had in mind when she sang the “Freedom Day” section of her husband, drummer Max Roach’s epic We Insist: Freedom Now Suite as the ‘60s dawned and the Civil Rights movement picked up steam. Thus it’s more than appropriate that our own foremost local jazz chanteuse, Terri Roiger, should be using June 19, 2013 to tout her new tribute CD Dear Abbey: The Music of Abbey Lincoln at the Falcon in Marlboro. Lincoln, whose vocal style fell somewhere in between Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, was a major influence on Roiger, who now wants to pay homage to her predecessor’s “ability to express human struggle through the beauty of music.”
Roiger will be performing with her quartet, consisting of John Menegon on bass, Steve Williams on drums, Greg Osby on alto sax and James Weidman – accompanist to Abbey Lincoln herself for several years – on piano. The musical program will consist of excerpts from We Insist: Freedom Now Suite (1960) and Straight Ahead (1961), along with other material from Lincoln’s repertoire. Also performing will be actor Mel Johnson, Jr., presenting scenes from Frederick Douglas: In the Shadow of Slavery, and educator and jazz historian Joe Washington will give a talk on the meaning of Juneteenth.
“Teri Roiger Sings the Music of Abbey Lincoln Celebrating Juneteenth” begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19 at the Falcon Arts Center, located on Route 9W in Marlboro. As always at the Falcon, admission is on a voluntary, pay-what-you-can basis, but the suggested donation is $20 per person. If you’ll be having dinner, reservations are highly recommended: Call (845) 236-7970.
Teri Roiger Sings the Music of Abbey Lincoln Celebrating Juneteenth, Wednesday, June 19, 7 p.m., Falcon Arts Center, 1348 Route 9W, Marlboro; (845) 236-7970, www.liveatthefalcon.com, www.teriroiger.com.