The textured and delicate voices of children and the sonorous voices of adults have enthralled Boston audiences at performances of “Black Nativity” since 1970. This year is no exception as the thunderous African drums herald the Boston production’s 46th anniversary, a milestone in Black Nativity history, to date the longest running production in major cities throughout the world.
Black Nativity is produced by the National Center of Afro-American Artists. The show opens in Boston on December 2 for three consecutive weekends, with 12 performances through December 18 at the Paramount Center in Boston.
“Over our forty-six years of mounting Black Nativity, the National Center of Afro-American Artists has annually offered our city a glorious opportunity to increase and share the joy of the Christmas season,” said Edmund Barry Gaither, the Executive Director. “Our cast of over 75 singers, dancers and musicians have embraced this perspective and have become an expansive family after years of performances. They have given our city on of its most cherished seasonal traditions.”
Historically Langston Hughes had confided to close family friend John Andrew Ross, the founding musical director for the production, that he wasn’t entirely happy with the original music of Black Nativity. When Ross became the music director of NCAAA, he brought youthful singers to Black Nativity and revised some of the musical arrangements. The introduction of the lighter voices of young children and teenagers brought a freshness and vitality to the show that differed markedly from the earlier adult gospel singers.
George Howard, a Katherine Dunham choreographer and dancer, created a dramatic pas de deux in which Joseph and Mary seek a place for the Christ Child to be born. Mary alone performs the labor and delivery to driving African drums. Going beyond what might seem plausible, an actual newborn always plays the Christ Child as an excited audience breaks into applause and the theater resounds with joyous singing. “With the baby clearly visible,” said Gaither, “we at the NCAAA once again make a gift of Black Nativity to men and women of goodwill and peace of all traditions. May it spread from Boston to the world.”
All performances are at the Paramount Center. 559 Washington St, Boston. Tickets are priced at $47.50, $40 and $35. For ticket and group sales information, visit www.blacknativity.org or call the Paramount Center Box Office at (617) 824-8000.