Thursday, October 24, 2019

Eric Conway: Morgan Choir Sings at Capitol Building for Elijah Cummings Service

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

What an exhausting week for the Morgan State University Choir! We were asked by the family of Congressman and Morgan State University Regent Elijah Cummings to provide music for both the Baltimore Community Memorial at Morgan State University and the Washington Congressional Memorial service held at the Washington Capitol Building.

Yesterday’s memorial was a marathon when it seemed as though every elected official, associate, and/or friend in Maryland gave their perspective on Cummings impact on their life. As we were music between the various sections on the program, at times, there were as many as eight different speakers between our three planned musical selections. The Morgan Choir was on hand from 4:30 PM until 9:45 PM to support the Baltimore community service. Although we were enthusiastic about singing for our Morgan Regent, given choir members are students first and artists second, this was considerable time away from their studies.

This morning, we met a few hours later at Murphy to depart for the national service at the Washington Capitol Building. We had to leave much earlier than normal due to the bus having to be cleared by the Capitol police for explosives. We had not sung at the Washington Capitol building since the choir sang for the Rosa Parks service in 2004. Elijah Cummings' service was not held in the Capitol Rotunda, but the Capitol Statuary Hall which is appropriately in the House of Representatives side of the Capitol Building. Lawmakers included: Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Charles Schumer, Steny Hoyer, and Ben Cardin. It was good to see lawmakers put partisan politics aside to celebrate the life of their fellow colleague. The room with all the statues was not enormous, thus only room for about one hundred or so seats. Another two hundred lawmakers stood for the duration of the service. Some came ninety minutes early to get a great position to take in the service!

Cummings' casket was brought in by his Capitol police officers, followed by his immediate family. As many as nine different lawmakers gave reflections, each honoring their three-minute time limit imposed. The entire service was under fifty minutes including the musical selection of the Morgan State University Choir. Although the national service was a fraction of the time of our local service, given that this was the workplace of Elijah Cummings for over nineteen years and a relatively more intimate space than our Murphy Fine Arts Center, the ceremony seemed a bit more surreal. I did not want the Morgan students to lose sight of the fact that in the history of the United States, Elijah Cummings is the first African American lawmaker to have his body lie in repose in Washington Capitol building - and we were there!

The choir sang well, and was given many plaudits by the national lawmakers on hand. After the service ended, the choir went down to the casket to give our respects one last time. We consider it a blessing to have been asked to provide music for these services. We pray that our music provided comfort for the family and the national community during this period of grieving.


Link to Morgan Choir performance at Capitol Building
We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle
Eric Conway, D.M.A.
Fine and Performing Arts Department, Chair
Morgan State University

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