Bakersfield College singers will add their voices to the college’s monthlong recognition of one of the towering figures of the 20th century.

The entire month of October has been dedicated to celebrating the 150th birthday of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, the great philosopher and activist who led his native India in a massive — and peaceful — protest against the continued rule of Great Britain over that nation. The celebration has included art exhibits, an international touring company of children from India, lectures and panel discussions about Gandhi’s life and work.

The high point of the month was a visit from Arun Gandhi, the leader’s fifth grandson, who shared his grandfather’s message and example — that revenge is not justice; channeling anger into positive action will be.

That message will be part of the theme of the BC choirs’ concert Friday evening in the Indoor Theater.

Called “A Light In the Darkness,” the concert promises to be the crowning event in the college’s celebration.

Each of the college’s three choirs — Chamber Singers, College Choir and the newly assembled Renegade Men’s Chorus — will display an unusually wide range of eras, cultures and performance styles, ranging from Renaissance England to classical-era Germany; from African war chants to Polish war songs; traditional spirituals and Haitian songs; Indian raga; contemporary classical. Sacred or secular in tradition, all of the songs reflect Gandhi’s core principles.

While it is common for choirs to sing in multiple languages, these choirs will be challenged with languages less commonly used in American choral performance — Haitian Creole and Bantu, the language of the Xhosa people of South Africa, are examples; and musical traditions beyond the Western European tradition, such as “Desh,” a Hindustani raga.

Ideas such as cherishing the present, while learning for the future; embodying the ideals one is striving for; service to others; the power of hope and the will in enduring challenges; and the power of love to bring peace are all represented in the ambitious program scheduled for the concert, directed by Jennifer Garrett.

Guest artists include baritone Robert Barefield, who will join the Men’s Chorus in singing Polish war songs and performing three American songs set by Aaron Copland; the Synergy String Quartet, who will perform an excerpt from a Mendelssohn string quartet and with the Chamber Singers for Ola Gjeilo’s “Across the Vast Eternal Sky,” which speaks of restoration. The choirs are accompanied by Patrick Bender. Additional guest artists include flutist Tracy Harris, plus John Calanchini, Ernest Cervantes and Ron Kean.

The last event in the BC’s Gandhi celebration is a student speech tournament on Nov. 2, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at BC’s Delano Campus.

Susan Scaffidi is a freelance music journalist. She can be reached at

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