DATE: Saturday, May 31, 2008
TIME: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
VENUE: Abyssinian Baptist Church
PARTICIPANTS: Calvin O. Butts, Oliver Sacks, The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir

The Abyssinian Gospel Choir joined neurologist/author Oliver Sacks in an exploration of the power of music, as the choir’s performance provides a stimulating context for accounts of music’s biological foundations, and of patients whose lives were altered by the empowerment of music.

As part of the 200th anniversary celebration of The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York, where Calvin O. Butts, III is pastor, the Abyssinian Baptist Church choir joined neurologist/author Oliver Sacks in an exploration of the power of music to inspire and uplift, and as an effective tool in the therapeutic process. Blending neuroscience with the choir’s vibrant and extensive repertoire, along with reflections on the role of African-American sacred music’s significant historical expressions, this program provided a stimulating context for Sacks’ true-life accounts of patients whose lives were altered by the empowerment of music.

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Calvin Butts III
Pastor of The Abyssinian Baptist Church

The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, is Pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church and President of SUNY College at Old Westbury. Under his leadership, the Church leads crucial community development and social justice initiatives in Harlem. He is a founder and current Chairman of the Abyssinian Development Corporation and was instrumental in establishing the first new high school in Harlem in 50 years.

Neurologist, Author

Oliver Sacks, a physician and author, has been called “the poet laureate of medicine” by The New York Times. His books and essays, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, are used in schools and universities around the world. He is also the author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, and a forthcoming book, The Mind’s Eye.

In his books, Sacks describes patients struggling to live with brain conditions ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to autism, Parkinsonism, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. His book Awakenings inspired a play by Harold Pinter and also the Oscar-nominated feature film with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. His essays regularly appear in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, as well as various medical journals.

Sacks is professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine.

The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir

The Inspirational Voices of Abyssinian Baptist Church is the resident choir of one of the most prominent African-American institutions in America. Under the leadership of its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, the Abyssinian Baptist Church has followed the African-American church tradition of actively building communities, and remains a champion of spiritual empowerment, social justice, and reform. The church is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary, “Abyssinian 200: True to Our God, True to our Native Land”, a tribute to its contributions to the American cultural landscape over two centuries.