Spurlock celebrates diversity with samba performance

Photo provided by Vivian Felicio | Samba Soul. The Brazilian musical group Samba Soul performs live.

Photo provided by Vivian Felicio | Samba Soul.
The Brazilian musical group Samba Soul performs live.

Destiny Norris

Staff Writer

The University of Illinois’ Spurlock Museum jumps into spring by celebrating diversity. The local museum, which began the Cultural Celebration Series in January, recently hosted the Brazilian samba band Samba Soul in its Knight Auditorium.

The band played for a little over 45 minutes. Lead singer Vivian Felicio opened up the performance by sharing something about each song, whether it be her fondness for it, the composer, or the significance of the song.

Choosing songs from an array of Brazilian composers, Samba Soul performed in the energetic spirit of Brazilian culture. A few of the songs were well-known, and Felicio rallied seated attendees for some crowd participation.

One song near the end of the program was performed in Portuguese, English, and Spanish. Though most of the singing was in Portuguese, Felicio described what the song was about for listeners who did not speak Portuguese.

Taking tallies by raise of hands, Felicio made count of her fellow native Brazilians, as well as Spanish speakers and lovers of culture in the crowd, thanking everyone for supporting Samba Soul and the museum’s event. Families, students from the university, couples of all ages, and singles were in attendance, and seemed keen to cheer on the lively band.

At the end of the performance, Felicio took time to introduce her fellow band members, all committed and passionate about celebrating Brazilian culture through samba music.

Kim Sheahan, director of the event and museum staff, said Felicio had approached her earlier about putting on an event to celebrate Brazilian culture. Sheahan learned of the musical group’s presence in the Champaign-Urbana area when making Felicio aware of the then upcoming Cultural Celebration Series.

Sheahan says that one of her goals for the Cultural Celebration Series is to remind the community that the museum celebrates people of cultures from all over the world. She also hopes that the series will increase the museum’s visitation, particularly from people who would be coming for the first time. Sheahan is eager to involve the community in the event.

“There are a few different ways that [community members] could be involved,” Sheahan says. “Of course, we would like them to attend as many concerts as possible, but they can also be involved by spreading the word about the series and suggesting to me performers they know of in the area who might be interested in performing.”

Determined to make the celebration a permanent fixture, Sheahan has applied for a grant that would help offset the cost of paying performers and putting on events.

“We began the series in January and hope we can find a way for it to be continuous,” Sheahan says. “I would like to keep the Series a free event, but it takes financial support for this to be possible.”

To get involved, support the events, or pose questions or comments about the Cultural Celebration Series, contact Sheahan at the Spurlock museum by phone at 217-244-3355 or by email at ksheahan@illinois.edu.

“I would be happy to talk to community members about the Series,” says Sheahan.

Future events in the series will take place on the fourth Sunday of each month. All events take place at the Spurlock museum, located at 600 S. Gregory St. in Urbana. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.