The City of Auburn is celebrating the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman and her tireless efforts to guide slaves to safety. The 2nd annual Harriet Tubman Freedom Music Festival will be held tonight in the city. Executive Producer and music composer Sean McLeod a puts his heart and soul into the festival. People will hear his voice and music at the festival that he refers to as A Soundtrack for Harriet Tubman. It's the result of his hard work that's truly been a long journey. He first wrote music for a play about Tubman in 1990 and then he was commissioned in 1993 for a re-adaptation into a musical.
“… It is that music from the 1993 play ‘A Woman Called Harriet’ that has now been re-outfitted to this new manifestation that we call a Soundtrack for Harriet Tubman.”
McLeod adds that the music has now become the crescendo of the Freedom Music Festival.
“What we also did then was invite a whole bunch of other regional talents to come in and to also perform in concert on this evening. Our premise was being able to help Harriet be re-introduced to the country, and around the globe, but to do so in a contemporary manner in which she could be young and vivacious and flexible.”
He says that also mirrors recently discovered portraits of Harriet Tubman in her younger years.
“Her beauty and her tenderness and what not. And I think it is imperative because now people can see a full scope of who Harriet Tubman was… so she’s not as much a thing as she is a person. But, our goal was that this music would be able to soften her and make a way for people to approach the persona that was Harriet Tubman. So, the festival itself, we ended-up having, if you will, the celebration of what it means to be free. Looking at the characteristics and the pathways that she carved out. What kind of defined her.”
McLeod adds that Tubman was “bound by color” and responded by freeing herself. He says she persevered by work in tandem with individuals who didn’t resemble her. For him, the whole purpose of presenting the soundtrack is for people to help people find commonality.
“Sometimes people don’t like to talk and they certainly don’t like to talk about things that are difficult to discuss. You know, but music, singing, dancing, art sometimes has a way of letting the heart have a conversation that the mouth can’t. It’s been said to me that this music is like an album of anthems. It kind of like doesn’t give you a choice. You kind of start nodding your head and the hooks are really kind of rich and very honest and clean. So, I think that when people listen to the music, they just feel good. And I think that that is passing on that legacy of freedom. I don’t think that there’s anything that is more indicative of freedom than simply being happy. So, as we try to make this a colorblind society by honoring people of color and culture and not by ignoring it, I think America will continue to embrace its greatness, both yesterday and tomorrow.”
McLeod recently found out that his Great, Great, Grandmother was assisted by Tubman. The Harriet Tubman Freedom Festival is located on State Street at the music pavilion in Downtown Auburn. Festivities are from 6 to 10 P.M. this evening and the festival opens 5 P.M. with a special meet and greet with music artists. Local vendors are participating in the event. A local brewer developed Harriet Tubman Strawberry Ale because strawberries, according to McLeod, was a favorite of her favorite fruits. Click here to find out more about the festival. The festival is a part of the New York Dance Festival.