The RPM Voices of Rhode Island, (Reaching People through Music) formerly the RPM Singers, was formed in 2003 by musicologist and multiAUDELCO award winning composer, arranger and musical director, Dr. Clarice LaVerne Thompson, who was then an adjunct visiting lecturer in the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University, and the Music Director for Rites and Reason Theatre. The choir’s early beginnings evolved out of a choral music workshop that
Dr. Thompson organized. Recognizing an opportunity to bring together a very diverse community to create music, Dr Thompson opened the workshop to all people, regardless of prior musical training. Over the years workshop participants consisted of students, faculty and staff of Brown University, students from other Rhode Island colleges, universities and high schools, and community members of greater metropolitan Providence and its surrounding cities and towns. In 2013, more than 65 choir members, ages 8-80, representing 26 different households of faith, including three Jewish synagogues, comprise RPM Voices of Rhode Island. We are a prism of peoples of many cultures, races, religions and spiritual beliefs. It is a united community of voices who love music that is spiritually uplifting, culturally enriching and grounded in the discipline of musical training.
RPM was designed to represent a true cross cultural, multi-generational “snapshot” of the people of this state. We embrace each other’s differences, we learn from each other and we share ourselves as one musical voice, dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the most prolific American musical genre, African American folk music, with a concentration on the Negro Spiritual and Contemporary Gospel song.
RPM Voices of Rhode Island has appeared with great acclaim in various small and large venues across the state — performing at RPM’s Annual Gospel Brunch (in 2013 held at Rough Point, Newport) and Advent of Unity Concert, inviting guest clinicians including Victor Simonson, associate conductor of “Memphis the Musical,” and Josef Sorett, assistant professor of Religion and African American Studies at Columbia University. RPM was the headline group for the Gospel Brunch at Sound Session 2007, 2008, and 2009, a Providence, Rhode Island city-wide music festival; singing for the MLK, Jr. State Holiday Commission; at the Inauguration celebration for the Mayor of the City of Providence, Angel Taveras; NAACP Providence Chapter events; 2011 Emancipation Day at Roger Williams Park; Together at Vets Multicultural Festival 2011; WaterFire Providence 2009 and 2011; Gospel/Black History celebrations at Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University and Rhode Island College; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall of Fame awards at Providence City Hall; “Singing the Dream”(a musical tribute to MLK – 150 voices from Shir Emanu-El of Temple El, Kol Kesem HaZamir, Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, Beneficent Congregational Church, Central Congregational Church and RPM) and for two years in the winter at several nursing and assisted care facilities as well as the summer park series for the City of Providence — to name a few. RPM Voices of Rhode Island is featured in the book, “A Thousand Ships.”
A strong partnership was formed in 2010 between RPM Voices of Rhode Island and Theta Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. of Providence, Rhode Island in support of their scholarship initiatives. In 2012, RPM Voices of Rhode Island performed for an audience of 3200 at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. National North Atlantic Regional Conference held in Providence, Rhode Island.
Other notable awards and honors received by RPM Voices of Rhode Island are the 2010 New Light Award from Beneficent Congregational Church, Providence, RI and the Alfred Nash Patterson Grant for the 2011-2012 season from Choral Arts New England. RPM Voices of Rhode Island has been recognized as a true voice throughout the state that values participation and mutuality garnering support to build capacity by receiving an Expansion Arts Program grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.