Denver Goes to the Spirituals

Missed most of Friday’s conference. Really wanted to catch the afternoon presentations, but events prevented that from happening. C’est la vie…

Saturday, though, was stupendous. As usual, waited until the last moment to put together my Powerpoint presentation, even added two slides less than an hour before the session started. Still, gave the presentation on singing dialect twice to enthusiastic audiences. Mainly talked about why dialect should be considered in performance of spiritual art songs and resources–especially recordings–where its use can be studied. The lecture included musical excerpts performed by historical and contemporary singers such as Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Robert McFerrin and Jessye Norman.

I was even daring enough to compare the incomparable Donnie Ray Albert’s recording of the Hale Smith setting of “I’m Going to Die Easy,” which he sang without dialect, with mine–which is pretty heavily spiced with dialect. For the recital part of my lecture-recital, I sang Burleigh’s “Deep River,” Hogan’s “Let Us Break Bread,” and Johnson’s “Witness.” And the comments and questions from the audiences led to some lively discussions. Overall, I could hardly have asked for things to go better.

After the afternoon’s presentations, we got a few pictures of the University of Denver–where the conference was held.


Momma and I attended the closing banquet and program at a local church near the university. The Keynote speaker was poet and activist Nicki Giovanni. The Spirituals Project Choir presented a concert of spirituals, including the world premiere of Jacqueline Hairston’s composition, “The Multi-Layered Legacy of Madame E. Azalia Hackley,” commissioned specifically for the conference.

Overall, it was an outstanding conference. The organizers, especially Dr. Arthur Jones, and participants have much to be proud of.

Most of all, it was wonderful having my mother here. She sat in on both of my presentations and met a number of folks with whom I’ve corresponded with over the Internet.

I sincerely hope this conference can be given again and regularly thereafter.

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