The Morning Call from Allentown, Pennsylvania on May 15, 1986 · 98
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The Morning Call from Allentown, Pennsylvania · 98

Allentown, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 15, 1986
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D10 THE MORNING CALL a era. magazine THURSDAY, MAY 15, 1985 PIRSTUAL SOUND AS Fisk University's Jubilee Singers raise their voices in song and tradition By CHARLES HiLLINGER Of The Los Angeles Times NASHVILLE, Tenn. - At historic Fisk University, in this capital city, the school's heroes for more than a century have not been football or basketball players, rather the mem- : bers of a musical group. In fact, Fisk one of the nation's most prestigious predominantly black universities would not exist today were it not for the Jubilee Singers. Until the Jubilee Singers came along, the rich musical treasures of Southern plantation life had not been heard outside the black communities. Performing songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Little David, Play on Your Harp" "Go Down Mo-ses" "Steal Away to Jesus" and . "Deep River," the Jubilee Singers in- troduced the world to the Negro ." spiritual and black music as an v American art form. The American Missionary Associ-ation of New York City and the r.. Western Freedman's Aid Commis-sion of Cincinnati launched Fisk '"J University in 1866 for those freed from slavery after the Civil War. The first classes were held in aban- ... doned Union Army barracks in Nashville. Lacking financial support, the I school closed six years later. George - L. White, Fisk's treasurer and pro- fessor of music, thought of taking his choral group on a fund-raising tour, but the school's board of directors . turned him down. Undeterred, White borrowed money for the tour and set "out Oct. 6, 1871. "It took great courage. They J faced real dangers traveling at the -time of Reconstruction when racial ' hatred was intense," said Henry Ponder, 58, Fisk's current president. Accommodations were not easy to find. All but two of the original nine singers had been in bondage until the end of the Civil War. Ponder said the group initially sang classical music for its audiences, but at night, back in their rooms, they would sing songs that gave themselves comfort, the old Negro spirituals." Ponder said that White, noting the deep emotional feeling and great fervor displayed when singing those The repertoire of the Jubilee Singers today, as throughout history, is primarily Negro spirituals. Matthew Kennedy, concert pianist songs, decided to include a spiritual in the Jubilee Singers' performance before a convention of the National Council of Churches in Oberlin, Ohio, Nov. 15, 1871. "They sang 'Steal Away to Jesus' that night," Ponder said. "The rest is history. The song sprang from the heart and soul of an oppressed people and conveyed the message of human emotion." Abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher became the choral group's patron, and under his auspices the Jubilee Singers continued their tour that first year to New York and New England. They sang in the White House before President Ulysses S. Grant. Proceeds from the concerts were used to purchase 45 acres of land, now the site of Fisk University. In 1873 the Jubilee Singers, numbering seven women and four men, embarked on a European tour. White and his choral group electrified audiences, including heads of state, in England, France, Germany, Russia and other countries. Queen Victoria was so moved by the group that she commissioned court artist Edmund Havel to paint a life-size portrait of the singers. The $150,000 raised on the European tour that year as used to build stately Victorian red brick Jubilee Hall, the first permanent building erected for educating black students in America. Beth Howse, 42, Fisk University's special collections librarian, looked admiringly at the painting of her great-grandmother, Ella Sheppard Moore. Moore, who lived from 1851 to 1914, was one of the original Jubilee Singers. She sang with the group until 1878. "Every time I come into the auditorium in Jubilee Hall I spend a few moments with this painting Queen Victoria had Edmund Havel do," said Howse. "I'm so proud to be Ella Sheppard Moore's great granddaughter." The 10 other Jubilee Singers portrayed in the painting are Benjamin Holmes, Isaac Dickerson, Thomas Rutling, Edmund Watkins, Mabel Lewis, Minnie Tate, Jennie Jackson, Julia Jackson, Maggie Porter and Georgia Gordon. Jubilee Hall, named after the Jubilee Singers, is the pride and joy of Fisk University. The buildding was dedicated Jan. 1, 1876, and the Havel painting has been hanging in the auditorium since. Today, Jubilee Hall, a national historic landmark, houses two reception rooms and the auditorium and serves as a freshman women's dormitory. Most universities celebrate Founders Day. Here at Fisk an equivalent celebration is Jubilee Day each Oct. 6, marking the day in 4 fm 1 1L ig' zkM-" K 111 J . - fiVtJji '-n.-X-'W ! 1 Los Angeles Times photo Jayne Kamin Jubilee Singers, from left. Derrick Wilson, Ouida Davis, Kimberly McGowan, Maritri Garret, Brigette Newell, Howard Averyhart and Byron Cobbin. SUMMER'S HOTTEST FASHION FABRIC! REDECORATE & SAVE!!! FAMOUS "WHATTIHGTOH HOUSE" : M L 45" !ofc0"WIDE 1ST QUALITY GREAT SELECTION OF VIVID MULTI-COLOR PRINTS TO SEW 1U t m ;J f A'L: SHORTS, SHIRTS, 5? 'if - BLOUSES, SKIRTS . . 'PS ' & MORE! Wm - VALUES TOWS WW Bit 1 i 1 I ii r i VALUE 1 i A TO 15" "GREAT NEW SHIPMENT" PLUSH SCULPTURES, SHAGS & PILES! NON-SLIP BACKING ALL EASY CARE EA. 48" C) EA. is 99 EA. VALUES TO '29.93 PPRgAPsPRAPEWIESr,VCL0THINiGCR R WHERE SAVINGISTHE RULE . . . 1155 WacAKi WUK ku nni cnwut., rn. i - - - - - - - - j 11 55 Mac ARTHUR RD. WHITEHALL . NEXT TO RITE AID & HACKMAN'S BOOK STORE MON. THRU FRI. 10-9; SAT. 10-5:30; SUN. 12-5 1871 when White and the Jubilee Singers launched their first tour. The musical group for the last 23 years has been directed by Matthew Kennedy, 65, who earned his master's degree from the Juilliard School of Music and made his debut as a concert pianist at Carnegie HalL Kennedy was a Jubilee Singer when he attended Fisk as an undergraduate. His wife, Ann Gamble Kennedy, is the group's pianist Their daughter, Nina, a concert pianist, is cur rently pursuing her doctorate at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. "The repertoire of the Jubilee Singers today, as throughout history, is primarily Negro spirituals," said Matthew Kennedy. ocirrrrTiin.'rirrii u y if n r ir IPreiiiiiMiffineF Sale D TANX TOPS D j SHORTS o is F p SHORT SETS Selected Racks of GIRLS' MERCHANDISE Size 2T-14 CREWS lot rjn HiLi ;uiRi ii mini mwiiiiiii m him iibmiiii n5. n ' I ARGO factory outlet j I ! mmm Itk Li""" II Is! I 1:in it t.vr. 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