The American Spiritual Ensemble will visit Sewanee for a multi-day residency in February, 2017. The American Spiritual Ensemble (ASE), with a mission of keeping the African American spiritual alive, was founded in 1995 by Everett McCorvey, professor of voice and director of opera at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. McCorvey and César Leal, conductor of the Sewanee Symphony and assistant professor of music, have been colleagues since Leal received a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. The ensemble’s repertoire includes classic spirituals, jazz, and Broadway numbers highlighting the Black experience.
Terry Papillon, dean of the College at the University of the South, has announced that a collaboration of five University partners and a friend of the College will allow all performances to be free and open to the public. The partners include All Saints’ Chapel, the Office of the Dean of Students, the School of Theology, the Office of the Dean of the College, the Performing Arts Series, and Dr. François S. Clemmons. The University has also received a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission in support of the project.
Papillon notes the importance of this offering to the greater community, “I believe that this residency can be a vital part of the University’s goal to do something that engages us in active participation for diversity and inclusion. Three performances are planned for ‘town and gown’ to hear, consider, and sing about the role of the African American spiritual through slavery, emancipation, and the civil rights movement. This repertoire has relevant themes in the present day.”
The first performance is a community welcome assembly at 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 9, in Guerry Auditorium, with students from Sewanee Elementary School presenting a brief play and joining the ASE in a sing-along. The Sewanee Symphony Orchestra will join forces with the ASE at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, in a performance in Guerry Auditorium featuring selections from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The residency concludes at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, in All Saints’ Chapel with the American Spiritual Ensemble in concert. Vocal ensembles from the University, including Sewanee Praise, Sewanee Chorale, the University Choir, and the Schola of the School of Theology, will join in a final selection, “Keep Marchin’ til I Make it Home,” a piece written for the ASE by Raymond Wise. A detailed schedule for the residency will be available in January at <artssewanee.sewanee.edu>.