Concert celebrates ‘African-American Spiritual and Song’

Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

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The African-American Spiritual and Song Concert in the College Chapel will feature the Berry Singers (above) and upperclassmen solo vocalists. The pieces range from traditional spirituals to art songs and pieces from a more classical repertoire, all written by African American composers. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Campbell.

The Berry Singers and selected solo vocalists will perform an African-American spiritual and song concert on Monday in the College Chapel.

Paul Neal, director of choral activities, said the inspiration for the concert came from the fact that February is Black History Month. Neal wants to highlight the talents of these composers that sometimes get put into a box by the musical community. Neal says the traditional African-American spirituals are great of their own right, but with this concert he wants to expand people’s knowledge of what these composers can arrange.

“While the African-American spiritual is a wonderful thing, and they’re a wonderful part of our vocal heritage as Americans, I also wanted to have an opportunity to celebrate the African-American as a composer of art song and more classical repertoire,” Neal said.

Neal and Ruth Baker, lecturer in music, have been preparing for the concert since this time last year. Baker has been coaching each of the solo vocalists, many of whom are upperclassmen music majors. A lot of the solo pieces are the art songs Neal and Baker want to showcase for this concert.

Baker has found a new appreciation for these art songs as she has worked with the students performing them.

“The art songs are really lovely and so melodic, and they show a depth of emotion that we are very excited about,” Baker said. “Every singer I’ve got singing art songs seem to be very excited about presenting the pieces they have been given.”

One of the soloists is senior Lyman Hinson. Two years ago, Hinson received a grant from Synovus Bank to do research at the University of Arkansas, where many arrangements of music by a composer named Florence Beatrice Price were written and are housed today. He presented his findings at the Berry Symposium that year. He also chose many of Price’s pieces to be performed in this concert, including the piece being sung by the Berry Singers.

“The pieces in this concert are really representative of what I believe that she was standing for,” Hinson said. “She was a very religious woman, so of course the choral piece we’re presenting is ‘Praise the Lord.’ It’s very romantic in the way it’s written. I think that’s how she would have liked it to be presented.”

Hinson will conduct the ‘Praise the Lord’ piece with organ accompaniment in the chapel, which is how he believes Price would have wanted it performed. He is excited to have the opportunity to put his own spin on the piece.

“There’s so much music that can happen in the arms of a conductor and then through the choir and I’m really excited to see how it all turns out in the concert,” Hinson said.

The concert will be held in the College Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

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