BY DR. CARL MAULTSBY, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
ORLANDO – On December 8, 2022, 7 pm, James W. “Chief” Wilson Auditorium, Jones High School (JHS), 801, S. Rio Grande Avenue, Orlando, FL 32805, when Jones High School Alumni and Community Choir (JHSACC) joins forces with the Jones High School Concert Choir (JHSCC), Andrea Green, Director, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra (OPO), Eric Jacobsen, Music Director, along with members of the University of Central Florida Singing Knights and Orlando Choral Society, both directed by Dr. Jeffery Redding, to present MESSIAH 50: the JHSCC 50th Anniversary Concert of Händel’s Messiah with orchestra, it will be both an actual and figurative “Family Affair” for the concert’s co-conductor, Cicily Youngblood.
Youngblood, Director of JHSACC and Jones High School 1997 alumna, will have in the combined choir her father, Clifford Youngblood, singing bass, and her brother, Clifford Youngblood, Jr. (JHS 1992), singing tenor. Youngblood, Jr., also serves as co-Director of JHSACC.
MESSIAH 50 family traditions will also be showcased when conducting chores are shared by first cousins, Dr. Redding and Rufus Redding, JHS Orchestra Director.
The success of a musical collaboration between JHSCC and the Florida Symphony Orchestra (FSO) for the Walt Disney World’s first Christmas Candlelight Service of 1971 inspired the groups’ then leaders, Edna Sampson Hargrett (JHSCC Director, 1967-2000) and Herman Hertz (FSO) to plan a collaborative performance for the following season. The result was the 1972 JHSCC and FSO concert of Händel’s Messiah. Subsequent collaborative annual performances of Messiah followed. Thus began a tradition that Mrs. Hargrett continued after FSO disbanded in the 1990s and until she retired from Jones in 2000.
The annual Messiah performance continued in the community as a JHSCC tradition under Mrs. Hargrett’s handpicked successor, protégé and JHS alumna, Ms. Darlean Coleman. From 2000-2007, Ms. Coleman also continued the choir’s collaboration with the orchestral community and the FSO successor, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, notably under the baton of Christopher Wilkins.
However, with the sudden demise of Ms. Coleman in 2007 and of Mrs. Hargrett in 2010, JHSCC went through a series of directors and left the annual community presentation of Messiah in limbo. A 2012 “Street Designation Unveiling Ceremony Honoring Mrs. Edna Sampson Hargrett,” organized by Representative Geraldine Thompson, brought together a number of JHSCC alumni, including the newly appointed JHSCC Director (2011-present), Mrs. Green, as well as the MESSIAH 50 co-conductor and 2019 Grammy Music Educator Award recipient, Dr. Jeffery Redding. For the choristers, the event rekindled a flame for singing as a group.
Subsequently, in August of 2013 under the leadership of Ms. Youngblood, the Jones High School Alumni and Community Choir was formed as an ongoing tribute to Mrs. Hargrett and Ms. Coleman. The Jones High School annual tradition of the singing of Messiah in the community resumed and continues.
Ms. Youngblood studied piano with Mrs. Hargrett, sang in and accompanied the Jones High School Concert Choir under Mrs. Hargrett. As an 8th grader, Ms. Youngblood became a member of the JHS Marching Tiger Band and is the only female percussion section leader in the school’s history. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Management from Florida A&M University (FAMU) as well as a Bachelor of Music Education with a concentration in Piano from University of Central Florida. At FAMU, Ms. Youngblood would continue breaking the gender glass ceiling as the first female percussion freshman section leader of the FAMU “Marching 100” Band and received FAMUs “Most Outstanding Freshman Award” as well as the “Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority, Inc., Award.” Currently, she is the Choral Director at Teague Middle School in Seminole County. In addition, Cicily is the Director of Music at Washington Shores Presbyterian Church, Orlando, FL.
MESSIAH 50 tickets are $10 and may be purchased at SupportJonesHigh.com or through Eventbrite online at bit.ly/JHSMessiah50. For more information about JHSF or to make a donation in support of MESSIAH 50, go to SupportJonesHigh.com or call 321-310-8346.
MESSIAH 50 is under the auspices of the Jones High School Foundation (JHSF), an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to fund and support empowerment programs for the students, faculty, families and administration of Jones High School. JHSF is funded in part by UnitedArts of Central Florida; Arts & Cultural Affairs, Orange County Government Florida; and City of Orlando.
Proceeds from MESSIAH 50 will help defray expenses to send JHSCC to the National Museum of African American Music, Nashville, TN.