The Fisk Jubilee Singers performed at World Cafe Live on Thursday evening, March 29th to a standing room only full capacity crowd as part of WXPN’s Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul Project. Led by musical director Dr. Paul T. Kwami, who has been the director since 1994, the 16 students traveled from Nashville to Philadelphia to perform a a powerful, emotionally intense program of Negro spirituals.
The Fisk Singers are vocal artists and students at Fisk University in Nashville. Fisk, one of America’s oldest histroical Black colleges, opened in 1866. The Fisk Jubilee Singers formed in 1871, and today the Fisk Singers continue to sing these spirituals and move audiences with their acapella style singing in the rich concert tradition.
Introducing the group was Dr. Donald Dumpson, the Minister of Music and Arts at Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and President and CEO of Diverse Arts Solutions. Dr. Dumpson, a contributor to the Gospel Roots project, provided the context for the performance in his opening remarks:
African American sacred music, the music born in the middle passage – when you think about the slave trade, when you think about the power of the music, it’s about the silence, the pain, the struggle, the context of slave trade, the context of the Underground Railroad, the context of the whip, the context of moans and groans – all of this is the fabric and the essence of this unbelievably powerful music you will hear. The Fisk Jubilee Singers is an extraordinary ensemble. There’s the spiritual that we know of that is born of the dirt, the spiritual that’s a part of working in the fields, the spirituals that are part of being in Nana’s house. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are preserving the African American folk song, or Negro Spirituals; this is music that moves the soul, music that changes lives.
With a handful Fisk University alumni in the audience, and friends and family members who drove two to three hours to see the performance, the Fisk Singers performed two particularly moving sets that included well known spirituals like “Go Down Moses,” “Thank You Jesus,” and “Old Time Religion.” Below is a photo gallery, a list of songs and performers from the evening.
Program for March 29, 2018
“Done Made My Vow” Arr. John W. Work III / Torin Brown, Tenor
“Steal Away to Jesus” Arr. Matthew Kennedy / Melody Beck, Soprano
“I Got a Home” Arr. Moses Hogan / Allen Christian, Bass
“Go Down Moses” Arr. John W. Work III / Lance Richards, Tenor
“Old Time Religion” Arr. Moses Hogan / Victoria Sanders, Alto
“O Peter, Go Ring Them Bells” Traditional
“There is a Balm in Gilead” Arr. William L. Dawson / Torin Brown, Tenor
“Here’s One” Arr. Gene Bartlett / Chelseai Cunningham, Alto
“Ain’t Got Time to Die” Arr. Hall Johnson / Dwayne Mitchell, Tenor
“Thank You Jesus” Arr. Robert L. Morris
“Mr. Banjo” Arr. Moses Hogan / Dwayne Mitchell, Tenor
“Oh What a Beautiful City” Arr. Paul T. Kwami / Courtney Kirksey-Warren, Soprano
“Poor Man Laz’rus” Arr. Jester Hairston
“I Know I’ve Been Changed” Arr. Damon Dandridge / Dwayne Mitchell, Tenor
“O Give Me Your Hand” Arr. R. Nathaniel Dett
“Rockin’ Jerusalem” Arr. John W. Work III / Melody Beck, Soprano
“Listen to the Lambs” Arr. R. Nathaniel Dett / Courtney Kirksey-Warren, Soprano
“Ride the Chariot” Arr. William H Smith / Torin Brown, Tenor
2017/2018 Fisk Jubilee Singers®
Courtney Kirksey-Warren ‘19
Melody Beck ‘18
Javone Sease ‘18
Dartisha Mosley ‘20
Victoria Sanders ‘18
Chelseai Cunningham ‘20
Jalisa Maudlin ‘20
Dwayne Mitchell ‘18
Lance P. Richards ‘18
Andrew Davis ‘20
Torin Brown ‘18
Allen Christian ’19
Deonte Williams ’19
Alden Hall ’20
Justen Williams ‘18
Photos by: Ashley-Gellman / WXPN
This article was written for WXPN’S GOSPEL ROOTS OF ROCK AND SOUL.
GOSPEL ROOTS OF ROCK AND SOUL has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.