Oh Happy Day: Tri-C, Cleveland Orchestra Choral Groups Come Together During the Pandemic

Carol Lee Iott


 A community that sings together stays together. That simple belief inspired a project that unified choral groups from Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) and The Cleveland Orchestra this summer. 

Students in Tri-C’s Vocal Arts Mastery program joined with members of The Cleveland Orchestra’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Chorus in a virtual performance of the gospel favorite “Oh Happy Day.” The resulting video unites more than 50 voices from the community. 

Visit www.tri-c.edu/ohhappyday to view the video. 

The collaboration grew out of a shared desire by the College and the Orchestra to perform and use music as a connective force at a time when the community seems fractured in so many ways. 

“We’ve all felt the strain of separation and unrest from situations unfolding in our world,” said Emanuela Friscioni, director of Tri-C's Creative Arts Academy. “The arts, though, have the power to bring people together. It’s about spreading positivity.” 

Renowned music educator William Henry Caldwell helped bring the two choral groups together. He serves as artistic director of Tri-C’s Vocal Arts Mastery program and resident conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra’s MLK Celebration Chorus. 

The College’s Vocal Arts Mastery program provides free vocal and choral training to Cleveland youth in grades 3 to 12. The program is run in partnership with Cleveland Public Library, with support from the Cleveland Foundation

The MLK Celebration Chorus is a volunteer group comprised of singers from throughout Northeast Ohio. The group performs at The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual MLK Celebration Concert, held in January. 

Singers from both groups individually recorded themselves singing “Oh Happy Day,” an 18th-century hymn that charted in 1969 after being rearranged and performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. The choral groups performed a cover version of the 1969 song. 

Video editors and audio engineers took the recordings and created a more than four-minute video that shows the singers and showcases their voices. 

“Today we celebrate love, resilience, community and the power of music,” Caldwell says at the start of the video. “Oh, happy day.”

August 25, 2020

John Horton, 216-987-4281 [email protected]