By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Anyone who knows Aquanetta Wright is well aware she is passionate about community and music and the joy the two unconditionally deliver.
Fondly known as the “Ferry Godmother,” Wright has been a much welcomed, integrally needed pioneer savior, bringing free concerts and other community bonding events to the Hudson Valley for decades. However, when COVID hit in March, Wright’s popular, much loved venues, chief among them the Summer Jazz Series, came to a screeching halt. Then, the holiday season, symbolic of togetherness and so much close to Wright’s heart, rolled around.
After seeing far too many endure an extremely challenging nine months, laden with insecurity, loss and separation, Wright just couldn’t embrace the thought of having to also completely cancel one of her inaugural venues, the popular Christmas Caroling Series.
“I just did not want the current situation to completely stop the joy,” explained Wright, who considered an in-person gathering at the traditional Newburgh Landing for the singing gathering, but just foresaw far too many roadblocks. “I really didn’t want 2020 to go out without connecting people in some way.”
As she has done multiple times in the past, the innovative and always charismatic Wright created the magic…this time the very best way she could: virtually. Keeping the 14 year Christmas Caroling Series alive, Wright brought it to the Zoom setting. Although a steady flow of Ferry riders were not able to hear the beautiful melodies and receive specially made treats and brightly wrapped presents after exiting the Hudson River ferry following a long day of commuting, and carolers could not enjoy roasted chestnuts, keeping warm by a nearby fire pit while sipping on hot chocolate, the central mission and this year’s theme, “Unity of the Community” prevailed.
Over 20 people zoomed in from the comfort of their homes to sing along to 10 plus holiday melodies with Anthony Stewart, the Music Director at Georgia-based Ultimate Faith Ministries, along with his wife, the Church Pastor Tamara Stewart, and entire musically talented family.
Stewart, surrounded by bright Christmas décor, played the piano, as his wife and their children joined in. Meanwhile, Wright, clad in her trademark festive evening attire and enveloped by an iconic black and white image of the New York Waterway Boat, the ferry renamed in memory of her good friend, Captain Mark Summers (an unforgettable catalyst for the Caroling Series), provided intermittent remarks to the audience she so desperately missed.
“Please sing along at home; we will hear you in spirit I promise,” urged Wright to her smiling, appreciative attendees. “I am so grateful for each and every one of you who have supported me throughout this very challenging year.”
Updating listeners on some of the latest, creatively-woven and exciting happenings with Ferry Godmother Productions during 2020 that people of all ages can look forward to, the always positive Wright expressed her appreciation to her loyal followers, sprinkling in a segment amidst the singing where guests shared moments they too were thankful for in 2020. A couple of people mentioned moving into new homes, another about her son getting married, and someone else about the incredible diversity of people that Wright is able to bring together and the sense of peace that affords. It’s those pieces of sharing and bonding, despite how and where they are done, that made last week’s 15th Annual holiday event so special and memorable, despite everything going on in the world. Hope, togetherness and love prevailed.
“It definitely feels different this year; usually there are many more people, Santa is with us, we are in person and there is lots of hugging, something I am missing so, so much, reflected Wright. “However, all in all, considering everything, it was a success; just watching people’s faces on the screen, I could definitely tell they were singing and happy.” She added, “I was a little hesitant about how it would work with the microphones having to be off, but in the end, there was definitely joy, and I could feel it.”