Dr. Kevin Fenton and AVoice4Peace Featured in a New Documentary Film
June 1, 2017
Dr. Kevin Fenton, professor of choral conducting and ensembles at the FSU College of Music, is on a mission: to encourage choirs and musicians to dedicate one day of the year to talk and sing about peace. Fenton is one of the organizers of AVoice4Peace, a worldwide peace awareness project led by the Nairobi Chamber Chorus and the Festival Singers of Florida. Their work to date is featured in a new documentary film sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, which has just been released. (http://avoice4peace.org/film/)
The roots of AVoice4Peace go back to 2014. That year, Fenton took the Festival Singers of Florida, a highly select, annually auditioned choral ensemble consisting of women and men from throughout Florida and the Southeast, to Kenya to sing. During the trip, Fenton and the Festival Singers joined the Nairobi Chamber Chorus and its director, Ken Wakia, for concerts in Nairobi. A traditional African peace hymn, ‘Ukuthula,’ was one of the songs on which the two choirs collaborated, and it left a lasting impression.
“About the second or third verse, the Festival Singers of Florida they realized they were experiencing something they had never experienced before,” Fenton recalls. “It was just such an intimate discussion of peace with the members of the Nairobi Chamber Chorus. It opened our eyes to the possibility of peace. It made us feel and have a sensation of peace that we’ve never experienced before.”
Following this international tour, Fenton helped coordinate the Nairobi Chamber Chorus’s tour of the Southeastern United States, which included concerts in a number of places that had helped to define the civil rights movement in the United States. During a particularly moving performance of ‘Ukuthula’ in Oxford, Mississippi, Wakia dared the audience “to imagine a world where choirs can sing together about peace and experience the unity these two choirs have experienced.” That moment inspired Wakia’s idea for AVoice4Peace, and he enlisted Fenton to help make the project a reality.
On September 21, 2016, the day designated by the United Nations General Assembly as International Day of Peace, musicians from all over the world sang 'Ukuthula'. The Nairobi Chamber Chorus and several Kenyan choirs joined to perform this song at a peace concert at the National Theater in Kenya, while choirs from all over the world joined through live stream. Additionally choirs submitted their own video recordings at https://www.facebook.com/avoice4peace.
Fenton was in Kenya for this concert as a result of a five-week residency at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music, which was funded through a Fulbright Specialist grant. Fenton trained Kenyan choral conductors in conducting methods used to teach undergraduate music students throughout the United States.
“I have found that the sharing of musical experiences and traditions provides a unique human connection that is lasting and provides deeper understanding across cultures,” Fenton said. “Kenya and the conservatoire have many great choirs, and they do Kenyan music wonderfully.”
Plans are currently underway for another World Peace Day concert in Tallahassee on September 21, 2017. Fenton will conduct the University Singers and Chamber Choir in a performance of "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" by Karl Jenkins. The choirs will also sing ‘Ukuthula,’ which will be live streamed as a part of AVoice4Peace so that others around the world can join them. The concert will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church at 7:30 p.m. and will be free to the public.