Nolan Williams, Jr., Storyteller
NOLAN WILLIAMS, JR., Musicologist, theologian, songwriter, producer and CEO, NEWorks Productions
In 2007 I took 33 singers to Italy for the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival. One of our four performances was in a town called Maiori. There are two towns next to each other, Maiori and Minori — Major and Minor.
The priest of the cathedral where we were performing had somehow forgotten about the concert and had gone out of town. He was the only person in town with the keys so at the eleventh hour the concert ended up being cancelled. We were all dressed up with nowhere to perform. I said to my singers, “You know what? Change your clothes, put on something comfortable. Let’s just go down to the boardwalk.”
…It seemed like every townsperson from both Maiori and Minori had gathered around us — hundreds and hundreds of people.
So we marched down to the boardwalk overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and just started singing and within about ten minutes it seemed like every townsperson from both Maiori and Minori had gathered around us — hundreds and hundreds of people. It ended up probably being one of our biggest concerts, an outdoor concert, very impromptu.
Performance for me is grounded in connecting with my faith and in communicating the sacred in meaningful ways, so at the end of most concerts we like to come together for a prayer of thanksgiving for the experience. And so we gathered that day in Italy for prayer in a circle and sometime in the middle of the prayer we realized that the townspeople had circled themselves around us and were praying in Italian as we were praying in English. We felt a sense of understanding that superseded the language barrier. By the end of the prayer we were in tears, the people were in tears; we embraced and it was just the most amazing experience of intercultural and spiritual exchange.
The power of music, the power of the spirit — it’s in all of us when we tap into it.