Stirred and moved by the current need for civil and human rights action, accomplished international vocal artist and jazz performer Virginia Schenck created her latest album Battle Cry (2020) to use the power of music to generate change. The message of the new album is not only of resistance, but also of peace, unity, and hope. Schenck, who goes by the stage name VA, released Battle Cry on January 3, 2020, and it will be available on all digital platforms as well as on CD.
Battle Cry is a powerful salvo, which packs the explosive authority of an artist who, in 2018, co-led a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Rev. Kimberly Jackson, an ordained LGBTQ+ Episcopal priest and candidate for the Georgia Senate in 2020, and Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing.
On Battle Cry, VA fires off familiar songs, such as Donny Hathaway’s “Sackful of Dreams,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” and “Bali Hai” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, with precisely targeted interpretation, imaginative improvisation, swing and soul. Her evocative renderings of “America the Beautiful” and “The Pledge of Allegiance” prompt fresh evaluation of time-honored symbols of national pride. A harrowing version of “Strange Fruit,” sung in wailing, dissonant passages, honors and embellishes the protest song immortalized by Billie Holiday with wrenching poignancy, made all the more potent by Jordan’s deeply rooted bass and Williams’ spine-tingling sax accompaniment.
Then, there is “Hear My Battle Cry.” Propelled by a disarmingly bright, deliciously funky groove, the album’s one original song delivers the singer’s bullseye message: Can we find the path to freedom by the truth in our lives/Find the courage, strength and hope to stand tall/Resurrect ourselves, correct ourselves, and pay our due/Hear my battle cry: I will live in truth or die.
“My music is my resistance,” says VA. “Battle Cry is my plea for us to step up to the plate and do what is right for this country, to make America a better place.”