The Pittsburgh Workers’ Choir brings music and energy to local demonstrations Music | Pittsburgh

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CP Photo: Dontae Washington

The Pittsburgh Workers’ Choir will perform with the May Day Orchestra at Pitankatonka on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

Demonstrations in Pittsburgh continue to take people out into the streets, but large crowds filled with protesters from all backgrounds can often lose momentum if they are not properly organized or have nothing to support people. One local band believes that music can be a solution to unite everyone.

“It would be useful for people at the rally to be together in rhythm and harmony. However, people are embarrassed to sing because they are not good enough, ”says Edwin Everhart, director Pittsburgh Workers’ Choir and a member of the May Day orchestra.

The Pittsburgh Workers ’Choir, which performs at demonstrations and events across the city, is committed to promoting more music at events, trying to get protesters to work together.

Last weekend the choir of work performed with The May Day Marching at the annual Pittonkatonk 2022 music festival, which features local bands and musicians from around the world in Shanley Park.

“Music is a universal language. Music can support people together, ”says Pete Spinda, creator of Pittonkatonk.

The Workers’ Choir was first founded in February 2020 as a means to “share the protest music of labor and anti-fascist movements,” according to their Facebook page. They say they are open to all ages and all levels of musical skill and experience, and their songs include both old and new music from around the world.

During the music festival, they performed several songs with the May Day orchestra, raising lyrics for the crowd to follow together, such as “Bella ciao” (“Goodbye”), an Italian protest song.

“At one point, singing was commonplace. People knew how to sing, even if their voice was not a “good” singing voice. In today’s world, not having the best voices is a shame, ”said Sarah Axtel, a member of the Pittsburgh Labor Choir. “We want people to be able to enjoy singing again.”

Axtel says the band includes songs from different cultures, and some are written in languages ​​other than most of the choir to “raise awareness and skills.”

Choir members say the addition of music could help demonstrators get into the rhythm, which in turn could help protest energy.

“I think music lifts people’s spirits, I think it supports them, especially if the protest can last for hours,” Spinda says.

But Everhart recommends finding the right music that would match the atmosphere of the event. “A lot of people have a hard time finding the right song that everyone can learn by singing,” he says. “Songs that have lyrics that can be easily replaced, or have a chorus.”

Taylor Berg, another member of the Labor Choir, agrees. “Good singing that can turn into a song is also a good place to start. Everyone may not know the song, but everyone can pick up the singing quickly, ”Berg says.

In addition to performing old songs, the Pittsburgh Workers ’Choir also teaches people to write their own protest anthems.

“We are always ready to support people as much as we can. We are ready to support the music at the protests, ”Everhart said. “We are not taking protest, we are just amplifying the sounds and messages that pertain to them.”

The Pittsburgh Labor Choir is trying to attend every protest in Pittsburgh, but even if they’re not at the demonstration, they say it doesn’t mean the music should stop.

Everhart encourages protesters to bring music.

“Bring a drum or guitar to the action, even if you can’t play it. People will ask you if you are going to sing something for them, ”Everhart says. “It’s when you say, ‘Actually, I was hoping we could sing together,’ and that’s when the fun begins.”

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