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Mar 5, 2008

Candace Allen explains what it's like to be the only black person at a classical concert in London

Here's an interesting read from Candance in London:

Not long after my arrival in London 13 years ago I had the extraordinary privilege to be sitting second row centre at an evening featuring Cecilia Bartoli singing Haydn concert arias. Being a reasonably "cultured" American, I was of course aware of Bartoli and had heard a few of her recordings on radio while driving the motorways of Southern California, but this in no way prepared me for her emotional and physical conquest of my entire being. Heart racing, eyes moist, arms tingling, one of the first thoughts that streaked through my still quivering synapses that evening was that any South Central LA gang member, Latino, Crip or Blood confronted with Bartoli would feel exactly the same as I did then.

The thought did not burst full-grown out of my head with no context. In the four years prior to my London relocation I had spent one day a week independently counselling a group of African-American girls at a shockingly decrepit South Central high school; so I was familiar with the milieu and I knew these kids, male and female, responded to honest delivery and to respect towards themselves, both of which Bartoli was demonstrating in spades. They would have been on their feet hooping and hollering for this Italian coloratura with her feet planted firmly on the stage, her voice and arms pulling them into her embrace without need of translation of any kind. She is human. They are human. The connection could not be more simple or clear.

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