Denison University Hosts the American Spiritual Ensemble
Posted: December 4, 2007 / Last Updated: December 20, 2007
D enison University's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Day celebration hosts the dynamic music of the American Spiritual Ensemble at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, at Swasey Chapel (200 Chapel Dr.). The concert is free and open to the public.
Founded in 1995 by Dr. Everett McCorvey, the mission of the American Spiritual Ensemble is to preserve and promote the American Negro spiritual. The Ensemble has presented diverse concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and South America. Composed of some of the finest singers in the United States, the ASE performs dynamic renditions of classic spirituals and Broadway numbers. At Denison, they also will perform with the Denison Gospel Choir and will sing an original composition by Dr. Raymond Wise, a 1983 Denison graduate, faculty member, conductor of Denison's Gospel Choir, and acclaimed gospel composer.
According to the Web site negrospirituals.com, Negro spirituals developed under slavery, yet they can be profoundly joyful. Slaves were allowed to attend Christian worship services and thereby were introduced to traditional hymns. These hymns were then reinterpreted through the music of their African homeland. The beats and cadences of the Negro spiritual strongly reflect this background. In the late 1700s, slaves gathered to listen to itinerant preachers and would sing "corn ditties," precursors to the Negro spirituals.
Negro spirituals are Christian songs, most often associated with spiritual expression, hard labor and with the Underground Railroad. Laborers were allowed to sing, particularly if they had to time their efforts, such as when pulling a heavy load. These songs were used primarily to cheer each other on, or to express personal feeling, all through the language of the Bible and the spirit of God.
The Underground Railroad spurred an adaptation of the Negro spiritual; it then became a road map to escape slavery. "Home" was a safe place, "chariot" and "train" were euphemisms for methods of running to freedom. One well-known spiritual, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," is thought to refer to Ripley, Ohio, which held a station on the Underground Railroad, across the Ohio River from Kentucky.
After slavery was abolished in 1865 and the Civil War ended, the Negro spiritual was "discovered" by audiences across the world. In the 1920s, poet and writer Langston Hughes was part of a black Renaissance that embraced the "race-spirit" of the Negro spiritual, and its use of dialect and meter was an example of African American roots in the land of their ancestors. It was during this time period that "gospel music" was born from the Negro spiritual. Gospel music is an expression of Christian faith and values, inspired by the Bible and, more narrowly, by the Gospels.
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CALENDAR LISTING: Denison University, Granville -- The American Spiritual Ensemble performing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, at Swasey Chapel (200 Chapel Dr.). For more information, contact Lisa Scott at (740) 587-6711 or email@example.com
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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