Harmony Project TV Special Culminates with Lower.com Field Pop-Up Choir

Thousands will gather at the Arena District stadium on Saturday to sing together.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
David Brown, founder of the Harmony Project, during The Concert for Us at Nationwide Arena on December 7, 2017 [Eric Albrecht/Dispatch]

Don’t call it a concert.

On Saturday, thousands will gather at Lower.com Field in the Arena District to participate in a massive singalong described by Harmony Project founder and creative director David Brown as “the largest pop-up choir in Columbus history.” The event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, with doors opening 90 minutes earlier, and should conclude by 7 p.m.

So far, the Harmony Project has distributed about 17,000 free tickets to the event, and organization spokesperson Peggy Meckling-Baker said on Friday afternoon that there’s room for more voices to join the fun. She said folks are welcome to show up without tickets if they’re interested in participating.

The gathering also culminates a jam-packed week of Harmony Project events, all of which have been documented for an upcoming national TV special to be aired on ABC. The program—co-produced by Get Lifted Film Co., Ohio native John Legend's production house—will showcase Brown and Harmony Project volunteers as they've collaborated on a variety of service projects, including work they've done with immigrant and refugee children and a community conversation between New Salem Baptist Church in North Linden and Temple Israel on the East Side. During the pop-up choir on Saturday, a video will also be played of a joint performance featuring prison choirs from the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville and the Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient. The performance marks the first time the two prison choirs have ever sung together, Brown says. 

At Saturday's event, Brown says he will teach all those in attendance to sing "Up & Up" by Coldplay. It will be a massive undertaking, but Brown is confident he can do it. "That part is the easiest part," Brown says. "I think they'll be motivated because on the screens, they're going to see differently-abled adults singing. They're going to see immigrant and refugee students singing. They're going to see incarcerated men and incarcerated women singing. And they're going to realize that their voice is a part of something really big."

Brown says the TV show is guaranteed to air on ABC, but the network hasn't set a date yet. He also says it's possible the program could be picked up as a series, with Brown replicating what he does in Columbus in other cities. If the show is picked up, Brown says, the program will film its next episode in Springfield, Ohio, John Legend's hometown. 

The TV exposure has the potential to dramatically affect Brown and the Harmony Project, which he founded in 2009 as a way to advocate for social justice and inclusion through song. "This is an opportunity that came up that I think could help secure the future of the organization," Brown says. But he adds that he remains committed to staying in Columbus no matter what happens with the TV show. "I’m not moving anywhere," he says. "I’m not giving up what we do for the possibility of a reality television show."