Music of social and political commitment never dies, it simply moves in mysterious cycles of energy and acceptance.
That was particularly evident at last night's Holly Near-Ronnie Gilbert concert at Lisner Auditorium. Gilbert, whose entrancing contralto blessed the Weavers 30 years ago, and Near, whose forceful soprano has championed a number of humanist concerns over the last decade, proved that music and politics can be successfully combined without either being subordinate to the other.
Working between Jeff Langley's supple and supportive piano and Susan Freundlich's eloquent signing for the deaf, Near and Gilbert took exquisite solo turns and came together for several powerful duets.
Gilbert's chilling reading of the Spanish Civil War song "Si Me Quieres," conjured images of La Passionara. "Hay Una Mujer," Near's haunting song about missing women in Chile, tugged at both heart and mind. They also sang about children, Emma Goldman, Stephen Biko and Harriet Tubman.
There were times when the singers' idealistic outreach exceeded their grasp, but their central concerns--feminism, family, nuclear sanity, racism, sexism, cultural imperialism--were imbued with a clarity of vision and warmth lacking in much of today's music.
The music of Near and Gilbert is disarming in its inspiration and commitment; they seek to be healers in sick times.