Tonality season opener: “Borderline”, 10/27

Event report by Doug McDonald

This morning I was compelled to look up the word “ensemble;” a group of musicians who perform together is the abridged version, and the definition goes on to talk about the coordination between performers executing their work together and speaks to the group viewed as a whole rather than individually. Easy enough, we all know what the word means, but I’d hoped to find a deeper understanding of what I’d experienced last night.

This is not my first rodeo; I’ve dabbled in and around music all of my life. But after Tonality’s Borderline concert, I realize that’s all I’ve ever done; dabble a little here and there. I didn’t want to leave. The audience didn’t want to leave. My only disappointment was for the singers themselves in realizing when I stood up to leave the transformative experience, that the venue was only half full. And that’s why I’m writing this in the hopes it’ll be packed the next time, because it should be.

There aren’t sufficient superlatives to explain how my heart and noggin were cracked open, peeled back and totally exposed, not just by the remarkable musicianship and talent, but by that ineffable thing that resonates when your soul is touched beyond all measure or reason. Like the definition of the word “ensemble,” we all know that music soothes the savage beast and has the power to transform, yadayadayada, but acapella voices have the power to achieve transcendence, and that’s what Tonality did. Under the direction of Alexander Lloyd Blake’s leadership and careful curation, the ensemble makes his personal mission soar to dizzying heights.

The strength of this group cannot be understated; they’re all first notch musicians, and the leadership is so otherworldly as not to be believed. The personal story of the group’s formation is that of their leader, Alexander Lloyd Blake, but his leadership, his ensemble’s personal stories, and the way they present each one in the context of their exquisitely arranged pieces and strong soloistic work, transform the audience. The power of the voices and their stories worms, wheedles, and wriggles it’s way inside you until you just want a big group hug with the whole lot of them. No matter who or what you are, or where you come from, you have been altered. To leave your comforts, whatever they may be, and enter the sacred space of the First Congregational Church on Commonwealth Avenue takes intension. Intension is transformative. In the supportive/immersive environment of this talented ensemble you are left breathless and wanting more; because their stories have such resonance. You don’t know if you want to dance, laugh out loud, or cry your eyes out, but each one of the gifted twenty four singers, their conductor, and their musical supporters, all make you want to be your best self. Music is supposed to inspire and bring hope, so while it is disappointing that more people didn’t hear the concert, the audience members who did, took home a gem they can treasure and won’t soon forget thanks to Tonality and Alexander Lloyd Blake. Bravo!

Editor’s note: We had every intention of being there to do a full review, but were unable to send a reviewer in the end. We’ll certainly try again. Thanks to Doug McDonald for sharing his experience of this concert on Facebook, and for granting us permission to share it here. The above has been shared with minimal editing — we’ve added just a few paragraph breaks.

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