April 19, 2024

Renowned vocal group the Fisk Jubilee Singers entertained and enlightened music students, faculty and the Springfield community with performances last Thursday.
Featured in a PBS award-winning television documentary Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory, the group has also traveled to Ghana at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in 2007 and continues to carry on a rich history of American musical tradition known as Negro spirituals.
Created in 1871 at Fisk University, a historically black college and university in Nashville, Tenn., the group performed concerts to earn money for the school as it was in dire financial need. Some of these early performances included Cincinnati and Columbus before the group toured Europe.
Their current conductor, Paul T. Kawami, D.M.A., from Ghana, West Africa worked with students of Wittenberg’s Imani Gospel Choir earlier in the day as part of a Master Class offered to music students.
During the hour-long workshop Kawami covered the history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the history of Negro spirituals and worked with the Imani singers on their presentation of “Certainly Lord.”
Working alongside Imani director Kent Brooks, Kawami encouraged the singers to use facial expressions and vocal dynamics as a way to evoke the stories behind the music they sing.
“You must be married to the song,” Kawami told the audience, “to be in love with the song. Everything within you is felt within the music.”
Kearstin Hickey, a junior at Wittenberg and member of the Imani Gospel Choir, said she appreciated the time Kawami spent working with them.
“It was a little scary at first but Imani is small but strong and mighty,” Hickey said. “He [Kawami] is so wise and he has the best in mid for the choirs he works with.”
Hickey also mentioned her appreciation of the inclusion of her peers in the audience.
“It was absolutely beautiful and means a lot to me to have a crowd sing familiar songs, to hear so many voices,” Hickey said.
Hickey, along with other members, attended the concert later that evening in Weaver Chapel. There was a full house, including many members of the Springfield community and a group of Upward Bound students alongside Wittenberg faculty and students.
The program consisted of a welcome from Provost Christopher Duncan on behalf of University President Laurie Joyner, two parts and an intermission. The performance opened with “Ain’t that Good News” and closed with “Ain’t got time to die.”
The Fisk Jubilee Singers received standing ovations during both the intermission and at the conclusion of the concert.
An Evening with the Fisk Jubilee Singers was presented as part of the 2013-2014 Wittenberg Series.

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