Gala Concert Salutes Black Women
by Carole Oberg, 4 August 1975
Last night’s gala concert at the Opera House was a triple treat: poetry, dance and music presented by some of the most respected names in show business and the arts.·
Grand as it was, the show received little advance publicity because it was private – if one may call a show that attracts several thousand persons private. It was the crowning event of this year’s convention of the black women’s‘ service honorary, Delta Sigma Theta,
A beautiful presentation called “Roses and Revolutions” opened the concert. Seated in swivel chairs on a red carpet, six celebrities interpreted poetry by outstanding black poets, pausing between each group of selections to listen to tapes of songs by Leontyne Price, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin and others.
Some of the poems spoke of earthy love. Others of human loneliness. Others of the humor and pathos of the black woman’s experience. And many of revolutionary concepts. Black liberation was the obvious theme, but human liberation shone through.
As moving as the poems themselves was the delivery of each, by the revered actress – teacher Osceola Adams; by the commanding actress Ruby Dee; by the actress-writer Ellen Holly; by the actress-dancer Barbara Ann Teer; and by the earthy actress-singer Novella Nelson.
The show’s artistic director, Roscoe Lee Browne, also read, in his wonderfully low poetic voice that has distinguished his work as a scholar, poet and actor.
“Roses” lasted a rather long time, without intermission – nearly two hours – but was so rich and moving that one hungered for more after it was over. A recording of the presentation is available through Delta Records.
Judith Jamison’s electrifying solo, “Cry” followed the poetry. One of the Alvin Ailey company’s star dancers she showed her own remarkable command of space and energy to taped music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro and The Voices of East Harlem.
She has danced “Cry” in the Opera House at least twice before, and each time brings to it a new depth and sincerity. It can be a dance of cold, flashy technique, but she made it something hot and involving, bursting with symbolic bits and emotive flashes symbolic of oppressed peoples; her long.
white sash became now a scrub-cloth, now a binding cord.
The‘ Leslie Uggams Revue, which closed the show toward midnight established an entirely different mood. It was all Las Vegas, with elaborate costumes, a beautifully tight and brassy band, and The Star, Miss Uggams. She sang blues, she went through. an accurate 1930s medley, she tap-danced‘ and did burlesque bumps. She was so slick, so sure — but just a little cold.
Miss Uggams’ segment was a jarring contrast to the refined, deeply moving, artistic material that had preceded her.
In all it was a satisfying — if not exhausting – concert, and a beautiful tribute to the achievements of black women.