Kim and Reggie Harris have been traveling around the country for decades performing their blend of storytelling, gospel and folk music, but they have never performed at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.
That will change on Saturday, Feb. 9, when they present their “Dream Alive” show highlighting periods in American black history going back to the American Revolution, slavery before the Civil War, and the modern civil rights movement.
They both sing, and Reggie also plays the guitar.
“They’re well respected and have been performing a long time,” said Krista Bradley, BlackRock’s executive director, who hopes to bring more storytellers to BlackRock next season.
Natives of Philadelphia, Reggie and Kim Harris grew up singing in church and in school. They met in 1974 at a summer camp where both worked as counselors, and both attended Temple University.
Married for 36 years, they now live in upstate New York but spend a lot of time traveling, performing in theaters, arts centers, universities and schools.
“We’re not home a lot,” said Reggie Harris, during a telephone interview from the Midwest last week.
The couple also travels through the Kennedy Center’s Touring Workshop Program, which provides training workshops and arts events fostering the use of the arts in the classroom.
“It fosters collaborations between artists and teachers,” Reggie Harris said.
The couple will be entertaining Montgomery County elementary school children at BlackRock on Friday, Feb. 8, with a show about the Underground Railroad that includes songs like “Wade in the Water,” “Free at Last,” “Oh Freedom” and “Steal Away.” The Underground Railroad, which included areas such as Olney, was a network of abolitionists who helped slaves escape to freedom.
In the “Dream Alive” show about black history for children and families on Saturday, the couple incorporates a nine-minute video celebrating more than 40 people — scientists, inventors, artists, athletes and others — for their accomplishments. Among them is legendary Negro League baseball pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige and Rosa Parks, who refused to go to the back of the bus in segregated 1950s Montgomery, Ala., sparking the Montgomery bus boycotts.
The couple has composed and arranged contemporary music for television, radio, video and multi-media presentations.
They are featured artists in the educational music series “World of Music,” and also developed, with Chatham Hill Games, The Underground Railroad Activity Set for use by educators and families that includes a game, video and activity guide.
When performing live on stage, Kim and Reggie Harris involve their audiences and teach them songs, sometimes incorporating the call-and-response form found in gospel music.
“So much of African-American music is in the oral tradition and made for learning quickly,” Reggie Harris said.