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Rochelle Small Clifford

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Operatic Soprano Rochelle Small Clifford and Imani Winds Founder Valerie Coleman Pair to Compose Classical Songs for Their Freedmen Ancestors of the 5 Civilized Tribes

Two New York based classical musicians, Rochelle Small Clifford and Valerie Coleman, have collaborated to compose a groundbreaking new song cycle, From Tears to Triumph (Life Beyond the Dawes Rolls) which pays homage to the Freedman of the Five Civilized Tribes, and their larger-than-life heroic ancestors who survived the Trail of Tears to settle Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Rochelle will be debuting these songs in Wichita, KS on May 4th.

Wichita, KS, April 27, 2014 --( Still Singing Wichita - May the Fourth be with You

Wichita native Rochelle Small Clifford returns to celebrate Wichita Collegiate School's 50th Anniversary in a weekend of song and celebration. The weekend kicks off with an informal coffeehouse on Friday night, at Wichita Collegiate, and culminates with a performance celebrating 50 years of fine arts.

Rochelle will then offer a personal recital at Wichita Collegiate's Galichia Auditorium on Sunday, May 4, accompanied by Sherri Pilgreen (Lyric Opera Wichita) on piano, for an afternoon which promises to be quite unique.

Admission is $20 (tickets sold through, phone:1-800-838-3006, email: A portion of the ticket sales from the May 4th recital will be donated to Arts Partners Wichita, a local organization dedicated to making arts experiences accessible to young people as well as using the arts to assist in their general studies.

At her Sunday recital, Rochelle Small Clifford will debut a new cycle of songs on which she collaborated with internationally celebrated composer Valerie Coleman (Imani Winds). This cycle, "Trailing Tears to Triumph (Life Beyond the Dawes Rolls)" consists of three songs which focus on themes central to her roots here. “Soil, to She,” is an a cappella vocalise about her relationship to the scent of the soil in this region, most specifically Oklahoma and Kansas. Says Rochelle, "It is as though the very souls of my ancestors are calling to me, it is a welcoming back, a comfort, a validation." "Silver Coins" is a glimpse into the complex landscape concerning the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes. Her desire to produce this piece was rooted in a deep-seated pride for her many ancestors: slaves owned by Cherokees and Creeks, who survived the bitter Trail of Tears to help settle the West. Lastly, “CWW” is a stirring portrayal of her grandfather, Curtis Willie Webber, who was a contractor for many building projects in and around Kansas and Oklahoma. As mentioned in the song, his initials remain "carved in the cement corners of oldest Wichita.”

However controversial the current sociopolitical landscape of the indigenous tribes, there is a particular importance to the these songs because many descendants of Freedmen have fought throughout history and continue to fight to maintain tribal rights. These songs help bring to light the suppressed truth of Black people on the Trail of Tears: the fact that the Five Civilized Tribes owned Black slaves.

The program will also include a variety of classical arias and musical theater pieces, the bulk of which she first performed under the tutelage of James Ockerman while at Collegiate.

Contact: Rochelle Small Clifford 347.859.2070

$20 Admission - Ticket Sales:

A portion of all ticket sales from the May 4th recital will be donated to Arts Partners Wichita, a local organization dedicated to making arts experiences accessible to young people.
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