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Carleton to Host Special Celebration of African American Sacred Music

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The Carleton College Department of Music will host an exciting four-day celebration of African American spirituals, hymns, and gospel music Thursday, May 15 through Sunday, May 18. All events will take place in the Concert Hall and are free and open to the public.

Guest artists include vocalists Cheryl Clansy, Carolyn Coleman, Damon Dandridge, Alphonzo Heath, Janese Lewis, Leah McRath, Brian Stratton, and Rodney Vaughn; many of these musicians, having appeared in various Minnesota venues with the Moses Hogan and Leigh Morris Chorales, are familiar to local concert-goers. Also participating will be members of the St. Paul-based Leigh Morris Chorale; the Penn State University choir, Essence of Joy; and the Carleton College Choir.

The celebration kicks-off on Thursday, May 15 at 1:15 p.m. with a lively panel discussion titled “African American Spirituals, Hymns, and Gospel Music and the Struggle for Recognition as New Classical Concert Repertoire.” The discussion will examine the obstacles that African American composers face in their quests to have their solo and choral compositions—based on spirituals, hymns and gospel music—published and included in classical concert performances.

In conjunction with the celebration, Carleton’s weekly convocation address on Friday, May 16 at 10:50 a.m., will feature Robert Morris, founder and artistic director of the Leigh Morris Chorale, and Anthony Leach, founder and director of Essence of Joy. Entitled “The Relationship Between Song and Singing in African American Sacred Music Traditions,” the presentation will be a lecture-demonstration of concepts, performance practices and styles, and music genres, featuring artists-in-residence, along with members of the Leigh Morris Chorale and the Carleton College Choir.

Later that day, at 3:30 p.m., a master class on “Artistic Expression in Vocal Performance” will take place as a follow up to mini-lessons taught by the artists-in-residence. The participants will include members of the Carleton Choir who also study private voice.

The culmination of the celebration will be two evening concert performances. The first, on Saturday, May 17, will feature artists-in-residence along with members of the Leigh Morris Chorale and the Carleton College Choir. The second concert, on Sunday, May 18, will feature Essence of Joy. Both concerts will take place at 8 p.m. For the full program of both concerts and guest musician biographies, please visit the event website.

Established in 1993, the Leigh Morris Chorale (LMC) is a community-based choral group, made up of amateur and professional musicians, which strives to educate the broader community through the preservation and performance of the concert choral music of African Americans. They have recently performed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Bobby McFerrin, the Minnesota Chorale, and VocalEssence under the direction of Philip Brunelle.

Essence of Joy is one of 10 choral ensembles at the Pennsylvania State University School of Music. Founded in 1991, the choir, composed of both undergraduate and graduate students, performs sacred and secular music from the African, as well as African American traditions. The choir has performed both throughout the United States and on International tours in Poland, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. Essence of Joy has released five recordings, including The Soul of Essence and the Spirit of Essence, which features settings of African American spirituals and traditional and contemporary Gospel.

The Carleton College Choir is a select mixed choral ensemble that performs short and extended works from the classical, ethnic, and cultural repertories, including works for mixed, women’s, and men’s voices. The choir has performed at Carnegie Hall in a concert commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., demonstrated the singing of African American spirituals at the American Choral Directors Association North Central Convention, and performed at the Mid-Winter Conference of the Minnesota Music Educators Associations. Recent concert tours have included Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Madison.

The Carleton College Concert Hall is located on First Street East between Nevada and Winona Streets. For more information, visit the Spirituals, Hymns & Gospel Music web site. For disability accommodations, contact the performance activities coordinator in the Department of Music at (507) 222-4475.

Written by Esther Pak ’09
SOURCE: Carleton College
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Written by Symphony

May 9, 2008 at 8:38 pm

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