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OBHS Presents Spirituals And Christmas Spirit

A lovely way to begin the holiday season with a nod toward history

This was the sixth year the Oyster Bay Historical Society has preceded its holiday party with a concert at the Hood African American Episcopal Church in Oyster Bay. Last year and again this year, they brought the Hempstead A Cappella Ensemble directed by Hildyne Bowen to perform in concert. They come together from a variety of churches and denominations to share their love of singing, and their love of Negro Spirituals from their African-American heritage. Ms. Bowen said the spirituals were the gift of the African-Americans that she said, “were created out of the souls of our enslaved ancestors with a biblical message.” They are about running away to freedom; sorrow songs; and rejoicing songs, telling of a life better than slavery as they longed for freedom.

The concert worked up to the toe-tapping, hand-clapping spiritual “Every Time I Feel The Spirit.” It was followed by the poignant and sorrowful “Hush, Hush, Somebody’s Calling My Name.” Bowen talked about the syncopation in the songs with a beat that came from Africa. It was a heritage they brought here even though they were bought here under force into slavery, “They couldn’t take away the soul or the heart of the Africans. It was a holocaust,” she said. The songs were all they could do and so it contained hidden messages of stealing away to freedom and messages of a better life.

The second part of the concert featured Christmas songs. It ended as Ms. Bowen led the entire congregation and ensemble in singing “Silent Night.”

OBHS executive director had invited everyone to walk down to the Earle Wightman House and walk on through it to the Koenig Center where the new exhibit was on view and a buffet dinner was ready. The evening was unseasonably warm and the guests were able to stroll down to 20 Summit Street to see the new exhibit: “Miniatures: Doll Houses, Little Rooms and Childhood Treasures” at the Koenig Center. 

There was the model of the North Room of Sagamore Hill; a model of the two period rooms in the Earle-Wightman house; and a 1922 dollhouse that belonged to Polly Weeks of Oyster Bay that was donated by her daughter Ellen Nicoll who grew up here. 

Guests enjoyed seeing them and the children’s clothing, children’s books and seeing samplers made by children. The food was delicious and the company was very interesting. People chatted about the collection and about things going on locally including a lecture by Barry Rivadue at the North Shore Historical Museum in Glen Cove titled “Hurrah for Hollywood: Long Island II.” Mr. Rivadue talked about Planting Fields being used as the set for the new movie The Ark about the story of Noah. He said they had a rain machine on site, and said the most trouble they had in filming the scenes were the paperazzo hiding in the bushes. 

The OBHS gift shop, Windfall, was open and books were for sale as well as handmade knitted items by Jacqueline Blocklyn including some that can be ordered. There were cards by Elizabeth Roosevelt and some elegant pottery items waiting to find just the right home. Please call for information at 922-5032 or check their website obh.org.