‘To Keep Truth Marching On!’: Excerpt from an interview with Audrey Johnson

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, October 27, 2022

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By Kimber Gray

Jessamine County Public Library

On Sunday, October 30, Audrey Johnson—trained opera singer and founder of Of Thee I Sing: American Heritage Through Song—will visit JCPL to present a special performance, “To Keep Truth Marching On!”.

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We asked Ms. Johnson about Sunday’s program and the inspiration behind her collection of one-woman musical shows.

Read on to learn more, then join us on Sunday, October 30, 2:00–3:00 p.m. for the performance!

JCPL: We’re looking forward to your performance here at Jessamine County Public Library! What can we expect to hear and see during “To Keep Truth Marching On!”?

Audrey Johnson (AJ): Thank you so much! “To Keep Truth Marching On!” is a multi-sensory experience involving historical songs and images, onstage costume transformations, and lots of audience participation. Together, we will journey back in time to the period of our nation’s history in which many brave women and men were working together toward the goal of American women’s right to vote. We’ll explore how their stories can continue to motivate us to be positive and engaged American citizens. To me, there is no better way to do this than through music, and there is a treasure trove of historical songs from the Suffrage Movement. As we’ll learn during the program, many of these songs were created by combining new texts supporting women’s suffrage with previously existing melodies. So, while the words of the songs you’ll hear during this program will probably be new to you, I am sure you will recognize many of the melodies. Get ready to sing along with us!

JCPL: What about the Women’s Suffrage Movement inspired this performance?

AJ: The centennial of the 19th amendment in 2020 specifically inspired me to create a program on the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The resources I discovered during my research allowed the program to develop into something truly special; learning about all the brave suffragist patriots of our past was both empowering and humbling. As a musician, I was deeply moved by the vital role music played in the success of the Movement. Creating new, pro-suffrage versions of familiar songs—especially sentimental ones—channeled people’s emotions, redirecting their original attachments towards the worthy cause of equal rights.

JCPL: What’s it like to perform a one-woman show? Are there aspects of performing “alone” that you enjoy? AJ: One-woman shows can take many forms. In this program, I share various songs and stories from the Woman’s Suffrage Movement rather than portraying one character. Instead of focusing on becoming one particular character, my role is more of a ‘musical ambassador,’ a vessel for conveying these incredible stories to others, hoping that they will be as inspired by them as I am. I also want the audience to be active participants rather than just passive viewers and listeners, so I actually don’t feel “alone” when sharing this program. Instead, I eagerly anticipate getting to know my audience members as they contribute their voices along the way. Music really does have the power to bring people together, and I can’t wait to experience this with you through the songs and stories of our nation!

Read the full interview at www. jesspublib.org/to-keep-truthmarching-on-an-interview-withaudrey-johnson. See Audrey Johnson perform “To Keep Truth Marching On!” at Jessamine County Public Library on Sunday, October 30, 2:00–3:00 p.m. No registration is required.