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Monday, January 18, 2016

Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art

The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Hundreds came on Sunday to hear the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville perform in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the National Gallery of Art. 
 Paul T. Kwami, the Jubilee Singers' musical director, at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Jubilee Singers' musical director, Paul T. Kwami, presented a brief history of the chorus which began in 1871 to raise money for the college founded in 1866.  The group toured the U.S. and Europe, "introducing Negro spirituals to the world," Mr. Kwami said, performing for, most notably, Queen Victoria who commissioned a gift from England to the university, a portrait of the Singers which still stands in Jubilee Hall on the Fisk campus, 

When Mr. Kwami asked Fisk alumni who were present Sunday to stand, about 20 were recognized and applauded by the audience.   
 
The Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1882/Photo, Deep Roots Magazine/Wikipedia
 The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Based on applause, crowd favorites on Sunday were "Daniel! Daniel!  Servant of the Lord" with Lyante Savala, tenor, and Kylen C. Parker, bass, "There is a Balm in Gilead" with Joi-Anissa Taylor, soprano, and "Old Time Religion" with Domine B. Ezechukwu, alto.  

Also on the program: "'Way Over in Egypt Land," "Run, Mourner, Run," "Poor Man Laz'rus," "Let the Church Roll On," "Jubilee!  Jubilee!" "My Lord is So High," "There's a Meeting Here Tonight," "Do Lord Remember Me," "Rise, Shine for Thy Light is A-Comin'," and "There's a Great Camp Meeting."  

Mr. Kwami said "Mr. Banjo" was not a traditional African-American song, but they were going to sing it anyway for the crowd's pleasure. Dwayne P. Mitchell sang tenor.

They also sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," the 1909 version which the Library of Congress added to the U.S. National Recording Registry in 2002.   

Other singers on Sunday's program were Kierra Pryor, Brianna Barbour, Torin Brown, and Allen Christian.

No sounds were too loud or harsh, but slow and even, memorably connecting their beauty of a century and a half ago to today's harmonies, demonstrating their music's ageless allure and peace. 

In 2008 the Singers won the National Medal of Arts. 
 The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 The positions the Fisk Jubilee Singers took while colleagues presented individual biographical sketches of original Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The a cappella group usually has 11 members, however, one member fell ill and only participated Sunday in the individual verbal biographies each 2016 Singer delivered about original Jubilee members.

One of the original Jubilee singers from Lebanon, Tennessee and born on February 29, 1853, was only 12 years old on January 9, 1866 when he started at Fisk which had 300 students enrolled at the time.  Another original Singer was born in Whiteville, Virginia and later became a cook for the Union army and taught school in Nashville.  Several were born into slavery.

  



  





The Fisk Jubilee Singers (in the distance) at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Throughout the approximately hour-long program, throngs  continued to arrive, admitted between numbers.  Since every seat was taken, some attendees sat on the floor while others stood.  At the end of the performance, the crowd gave the Jubilee Singers a standing ovation.

In the galleries, Sunday was no different from other weekend days at the National Gallery of Art, filled with thousands who love and are intrigued by art, whether it is painted, sculpted, played, or sung.


What:  Free concerts at the National Gallery of Art

When: Check here for dates and times.

Where: Usually in the West Building, West Garden Court, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall. 

Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art.
 

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-842-6941


patricialesli@gmail.com

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