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Puff the Magic Dragon, and other enlightening performances at “Freedom Sings”

Posted by rpqk7 on September 10, 2008

Whoever decided “Freedom Sings” was to be held at the Mizzou Arena may have been a little too optimistic.

The opening ceremony kick-off to the J-School Centennial was quite well-attended, but between you and me (and anyone with an internet connection), the “multimedia experience,” as the Centennial Program puts it, could probably have been held at Jesse—though acoustics definitely wouldn’t have been up to par.

Nevertheless, host Ken Paulson (who moonlights as the editor of a little paper called USA TODAY) had no problem pumping up the crowd.

The night began with the Dean introducing a series of state and local representatives, two of whom were there on behalf of senators, and the Chancellor. All guests extolled the virtues of the J-School and the effects it’s had in the world of Journalism.

But onto the headliner: “Freedom Sings” was written and developed by Ken Paulson (a J-School graduate, of course; class of ’75) as a way to raise awareness of the First Amendment on college campuses. Along with myriad accomplished musicians, Mr. Paulson made his way through a medley of songs about everyone’s favorite controversial subjects: civil rights, gender equality, racism, sexuality, and drugs. Behind singers and instrumentalists Ashley Cleveland, Don Henry, Craig Krampf, Bill Lloyd, Jonell Mosser, Jason White, Joseph Wooten, Jackie Patterson, and Adam and Shannon Wright, images relevant to the music subject and albums covers flashed across a wide screen.

Performance highlights included Puff the Magic Dragon (an audience favorite, apparently), Where is the Love? (for the very enthusiastic students around me, at least) and Louie Louie.

The end of “Freedom Sings” was particularly apropos: a lively rendition of This Land, by Woody Guthrie, as the audience of J-School students, Mizzou alumni, and the general Columbia public stood and (in some cases) sung along. And that was it.

…except not. In what was the most arguably awkward moment of the night, the screen playing images behind the musicians went black for several moments and the audience, assuming this signaled the end of the night, began moving toward the exits before the Dean came back onto the stage to inform everyone that “it [wasn’t] over yet.”

The audience was then treated to the official Missouri School of Journalism Centennial Song, “Coming Home Again,” by Mizzou alumni Jenn Schott and Jack Smith, and accompanying slideshow of the MU campus and accomplished J-School grads. (But, no Jim Lehrer? For shame!)

The night was an impressive start to the Centennial. I’m off to spend a good chunk of money on iTunes–I have some new favorites.

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