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Concert Spirituals and the Black Soprano

April 22, 2015 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Through a recital and panel discussion, Concert Spirituals and the Black Soprano enacts a reconsideration of the role of singing concert spirituals among black sopranos in relation to political resistance, musical virtuosity, sexuality and the sacred. The particularity of performing this body of art songs merges the experiences of enslaved Africans in the United States with the expressive and political moves of western classical arrangers and musicians. While performed in many forms, the performances and recordings of black sopranos’ concert spiritual singing signifies the labor of the feminine and the role of the black sacred experience in the enduring legacy of concert spirituals. The event opens with a performance of selected concert spiritual repertoire popularized among twentieth century black sopranos, immediately followed by a panel discussion in conjunction with the Columbia College Core Curriculum course Music Humanities. The recital features Dr. Paul T. Kwami, director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers ®, as well as other scholars of blackness and vocality.

Performers include:

Marti Newland, soprano
Core Lecturer for Music Humanities, Columbia University

Magdalena Stern-Baczewska, piano
Director of the Music Performance Program, Columbia University

Paul T. Kwami, organ
Associate Professor of Music
Musical Director and Curb/Bearman Chair of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, Fisk University

Whitney Slaten, soprano saxophone
Ph.D. Candidate, Ethnomusicology, Columbia University

Kevin Fellezs, moderator
Assistant Professor of Music and African American Studies, Columbia University

Panelists include:

Judith Weisenfeld
Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion, Princeton University

Farah Jasmine Griffin
William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

This event is sponsored by: The Department of Music; the Music Performance Program; the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS); the Office of the Core Curriculum; the Center for Ethnomusicology; and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL).


April 22, 2015
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Category:


St. Paul’s Chapel
1160 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, 10027 United States
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