Commentary

Amid the low notes of the pandemic, Harrisburg’s The Singer’s Lounge keeps the music alive | Anwar Curtis

March 2, 2021 6:30 am

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One thing I truly love about living in my hometown after college is being blessed with the ability to use my gifts to do my work as a creative.

Anwar Curtis (Capital-Star file photo)

I also get a chance to see my friends and family do their work, which is very fulfilling. The work I am referring to at this moment are creative platforms created “for us, by us” and as a Black man, I get more and more excited when I witness such greatness. One of those platforms that I love to talk about is The Singer’s Lounge (TSL).

It was exactly five years and some-odd days when Airis Smallwood anxiously shared a post on her Facebook page, asking her friends to show up and show out at River City Blues on the third Sunday of February.

She had expressed that it was time for Harrisburg as a whole to endure a platform at least once a month that allowed local singers to not only congregate but also sing with soul. After reading her post and witnessing her life journey post-college graduation firsthand, I knew nothing would stop me from experiencing the very first TSL show ever. And I am glad that I did.

Each month since the conception of TSL has been nothing less than amazing. Smallwood found a way to not only grab and keep the attention of her hometown crowd, but she has also found a way to gain their trust each and every month despite how many hurdles were in her way.

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Now I know I have said this before, but it is so true that I must repeat it. If you haven’t witnessed a third Sunday in Harrisburg, you are truly missing out.

Each month for the past five years, Smallwood and her creative team find ways to stay consistent despite having to move locations several times throughout the process. The first few months were quite difficult for Smallwood to find a home for her “brainchild”. Eventually, doors opened at HMAC, which has been TSL’s official home since the fall of 2016.

Smallwood and her creative team never hesitate when it comes to providing a high-quality show for her TSL alumni and her loungers.

Musical themes; Legends of R&B, Timberland and Missy Greatest Hits, R&B Duets, and two of her loungers’ favorites; The Singers Lounge Gospel Edition and The Singers Lounge 90’s show, created quite a few breathtaking moments that people still share on their Facebook timeline today.

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And because of her consistency, TSL has also branded into other arenas, being showcased at the Dauphin County Jazz and Wine Festival, ABC 27 News’ Good Day Pa, and is also a stage at The Weekender. Smallwood has even found ways to in becoming vocal in which she has displayed through local activism. All in four years.

So now fast-forward to February 2020. Smallwood and her loungers celebrate the fourth earthday of The Singers Lounge “Grammy Family” style.

Smallwood was not only smiling from ear to ear, but her creative juices were flowing as she prepared for another eleven months before TSL turned five.

A couple of days later everyone stopped celebrating when news hit home that Vera Cornish, a hometown titan, founder of Urban Connections, and a huge supporter of Airis Smallwood and TSL suddenly transitioned into heaven.

Two days after that, another faithful lounger and a very good friend of mine; LaTasha Frye received her wings. Then two weeks later the world made a complete stop due to COVID-19.

It seemed as though these next eleven months would be full of heartache but somehow Smallwood and her creative team pulled it together and found strength and “Dared to Dream” just like her mentor, the late Harrisburg entrepreneur Vera Cornish always advised.

These dreams became phenomenal realities that kept her loungers engaged with three Aux Chord Wars shows on Facebook Live and an in-person live show at Reservoir Park that followed CDC guidelines.

Over the past five years, Smallwood has strived to do her work. And five years later Harrisburg showed up and showed out for her once again but this time it was virtually.

This time the anniversary show was hosted at Hurston Manor on Facebook Live. This time Smallwood and her crew were able to share laughs, TSL memories, and celebrated a few Pioneers lives that we lost through a visual tribute sponsored by Otto Banks’ Mayor Campaign.

I appreciate platforms that are “for us, by us” and I appreciate Airis Smallwood for consistently doing her work.

Opinion contributor Anwar Curtis, of Harrisburg, tells the stories of Pennsylvania’s capital city and its residents. His work appears monthly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Follow him on Twitter @ACTheMayor. 

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