This is a work-in-progress selection of scenes from the forthcoming documentary film, A NOTE OF HOPE.

A NOTE OF HOPE is a documentary in the final stage of production about a group of five African-American jazz musicians who are reinterpreting both the musical tradition of the American Negro spiritual and its legacy of social justice. As they continue the tradition of using music to uplift fellow human beings and create social change, they find themselves changing in the process.

The film introduces the history of the spirituals, the unique musical contribution made by African-American slaves to our nation’s culture, and then follows these musicians as they decide to build on that legacy today. Just as those who first performed spirituals in concert settings gave their proceeds to the victims of the great Chicago fire of 1871, these musicians also connected music to humanitarian causes by raising funds for African AIDS orphans at U.S.-based benefit concerts. But the band wasn’t content to promote social change from afar. They longed for the human connection.

So in September, 2009, these five friends (John Blake, Jr., Sumi Tonooka, Gerald Veasley, Rosella Washington, and Harry “Butch” Reed) made their first visit to Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Ghana) to perform their arrangements there and meet the children for whom they have been raising funds. Along the way, they met and performed with other African musicians who are also using music to highlight humanitarian causes. Their journey deepened their understanding of African-American history, the current AIDS orphans crisis, their personal family experiences and childhood backgrounds, and their commitment to continue using spirituals to promote today’s social justice issue of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Part music appreciation, part humanitarian documentary, A NOTE OF HOPE offers audiences an understanding of the legacy of African-American music—not just in the form of spirituals and jazz, but in the context of how African-Americans used music to build their faith and reaffirm their human dignity. For this reason, it is a topic that transcends racial barriers, appealing to music fans and global citizens alike.

Arrangements by John Blake, Jr.

Executive Producers: Fred & Alice Barber. Producer/Director: Carolyn McCulley. Assistant Director: David Altrogge. Director of Photography (Africa unit): Drew Painter. Cameras: Michael Hartnett, Andrew Gallo, Carissa Gallo, David Altrogge. Live Audio Engineering: Lucien Dowdell. Location Sound: Lucien Dowdell, David Altrogge. Editors: Daniel McNeill, Drew Painter. Colorist: Michael Hartnett. Animations: Andrew Gallo. Sound Design/Editing: Dallas Taylor. Score: Roger Hooper. Band performances: John Blake, Jr., Harry "Butch" Reed, Sumi Tonooka, Gerald Veasley, Rosella Washington.

Special thanks to Doug Hayes, executive director of Covenant Mercies, for the editorial access.

Travel sponsorship through Ethiopian Airlines and British Airways.

Copyright 2010 A Note of Hope LLC

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