Homegrown classically trained cellist Karen Patterson will return to the area on Sunday, May 21 for a performance at Springfield’s High Street United Methodist Church. Patterson will perform the final concert of the church’s Sanctuary Concert Series.

Patterson said she prepared her performance for the local community with a repertoire that includes Bach suites and African-American spirituals such as the classic standard “Motherless Child.”

“Knowing that I’m from the region, I had to think about it,” she said. “We will not just do some concert. Every time you perform, you come to the table with something on your plate that’s going to happen hopefully it will be something that your audience can eat, something that they can learn from and maybe take that into their own world,” Patterson added.

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Patterson plans to showcase “the development of African American music and culture” through his musical selections.

Cellist Karen Patterson will perform at Springfield United Methodist Church on Sunday, May 21 at 3 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public. (Photo submitted)

“We’ll talk about improvisation in how I can go along some of those baselines. Where are they from,” she said.

Patterson recently completed an internship at the prestigious Hermitage Artist Retreat, where she is working on a book and play about her life.

“So many people throughout my life have said the same thing, ‘You’ve been through this, you’ve been through that.’ You need to get it out to the world so they know and maybe be inspired in some way,” Patterson said.

Located in the Florida Keys, the retreat is a creative, multidisciplinary space for musicians, playwrights, writers, dancers and artists from around the world. Patterson is scheduled to perform at a sold-out concert at the Hermitage just before leaving for Ohio for the concert on Sunday.

This is Patterson’s second appointment with the invitation-only Hermitage. Her first residency was in 2005.

“How I came here [to Florida] up first was the Ringling College of Art and Design and our dear friend John Sims. He made me go down, or rather, whatever he had to do to get [local] orchestra to get me to perform,” Patterson said.

John Sims was an Antioch College graduate, artist, and mathematician who taught at the Ringling College of Art and Design. Sims, who is credited with founding African American Cultural Week in Yellow Springs, which evolved into African American Cross Cultural Works, or AACW, died last December at the age of 54.

Patterson comes from a military family that moved to Yelow Springs when she was in high school in the late 1960s. Also armed with musical talent and coupled with an appreciation for culture, the Patterson family has made significant contributions to Yellow Springs over the decades. Her mother, the late teacher and community activist, Faith Patterson, along with a group of dedicated residents through the AACW, ensured that the village was filled with music from talented musicians through the annual Blues, Jazz and Gospel Festival, which has been running for nearly 20 years and held its last event in Yellow Springs in 2016.

Karen Patterson holds a BA from Ohio University and an MA in Cello Performance from Antioch University. She studied all over the world, including with the German musician Gerhard Hamann. According to a press release from the High Street Methodist Church, Patterson “has given workshops with renowned artists such as Mistislav Rostropovich and Janas Starker”. Her repertoire celebrates diversity and community and includes classical and jazz music, which she studied and performed with Keter Betts, bassist for legendary jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. Patterson also studied with retired Yellow Springs educator Shirley Mullins.

Patterson has performed at venues around the world, including the Lagos Jazz Series Festival in Nigeria, the AACW Blues and Jazz Festival in Jallow Springs, and the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has also performed in Budapest, Hungary and London, England.

Patterson, a 1973 graduate of Yellow Springs High School, began playing the cello when she was 8 years old.

“I don’t think there’s any grand love story about the cello and me. In fact, I know they often need cellos in the orchestra,” Patterson said with a laugh. “And so [my parents] took me to various concerts, where I met various cellists.”

Patterson said she wants to play other instruments.

“You know, it’s big for a kid. I was an 8 year old kid. I was trained to play the cello, my dad came home with it, and off we went—the lessons of it all. And I never looked back,” she said.

Patterson likes classical music and jazz.

“I love Beethoven, I love jazz, more instrumental stuff. When I say that, I mean something that should happen that probably won’t happen [ordinarily] will happen, but will, because of the level of musicianship. You have to be on your P’s and Q’s. It’s love music, it’s complicated,” she said.

According to Patterson, she is in the process of returning to professional form. Also an educator, Patterson was about to open a music school in Lagos, Nigeria, when she got the call to return to Yellow Springs to care for her ailing mother, which she said was an honor.

“I had a big school, a music school, which worked when I went home to take care of my mother. We had teachers, we had support, everything,” Patterson said.

Caring for what Patterson thought would take a couple of months stretched to months until her mother passed away in 2016.

“And then life begins. The real story begins. You probably have all the plans under planet earth, right? But in any case, it was a reality,” she said.

After her mother’s death, and although preparations took months, Patterson was about to return to Lagos to set up a school when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Well, that’s funny. When that pandemic started, my bags were packed, I was ready to get on the plane, things like that. I was about to return to Africa when the plug was pulled. … When you’re off the radar for that amount of time, it takes a little bit of work to come back, which I’m finally doing,” Patterson said.

High Street United Methodist Church is located at 230 E. High St. in Springfield. Patterson’s concert on Sunday, May 21, starts at 3 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. For more information, call 937-322-2527 or go to http://www.highstreetunited.org.


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