Highly crisp and vocally sharp belts, runs and falsettos filled the recital hall of Tullibody Hall on Feb. 20 as the fifth annual African American Art, Song and Spiritual Concert transported its audience back to the motherland with homages to the various trials, tribulations and successes of the Black diaspora.
From baritone to soprano to tenor, the Alabama State University Department of Music’s hourlong showcase included 19 students who each individually performed musical pieces representing the Black culture in celebration of Black History Month.
According to Cordelia Anderson, D.M.A., assistant professor of voice, diction, vocal pedagogy, voice and host of the African American Art, Song and Spiritual Concert, these students ranged from freshman, sophomores and seniors who are still traveling through their vocal journeys.
The dim and dark lighting, matched with the acoustic-filled space in the recital hall, allowed each performance to draw in the eyes and ears of the packed audience, gaining positive reviews and reactions.
Pianist Kristofer Sanchack, Ph.D., provided the “spirit” of the showcase by interpreting, reading and performing the music appropriate to each song.
Singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem, Davien Gavin, clarinet, provided clear, concise and smooth vocals that invoked a sense of pride into the room as everyone stood up to pay their respects.
Decked out in full African attire, soprano Kalece Miller sang, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” arranged by Bettye Ware. With the low moans and deep vibrato, the audience could feel nothing but emptiness, tragedy and despair as a woman mourns for her children taken away from the harsh and brutal slavery system. This song’s cultural significance and relevance to the African American community connects each individual soul to the empathic heartbeat that converges musicality and message.
With an outstanding hidden message of freedom from slavery, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” arranged by Hall Johnson lit up the room. Baritone Cahil Mapson showcased deep, dark, rich and velvety vocals that complimented the music graciously. Initially meant for F major, Mapson did an excellent job grasping the audience’s attention, enduring reverberating applause.
In West African culture, playing the Udu, a plosive aerophone and an idiophone of the Igbo of Nigeria, is typically meant for males. However, Jessica Williams proved to be one of the few women who has brilliantly performed the musical instrument. Williams rhythmically tapped the instrument in various places, creating quick, vibrating and cutting bass sounds with every tap. Robert J. Damnn arranged this performance, and Williams’ performance stood out significantly as it was the only non-vocal performance.
Miss Sophomore and soprano Chavon Brown boldly sang “Oh, Freedom,” a traditional spiritual celebrating the death of slavery and a new life of opportunities, beginnings and prosperity. Dressed in an elegant black dress, Brown carried her tune for extended periods of time and conjured up a number of commentaries from the audience.
Closing out the talent-filled show was “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” arranged by Florence Price. Soprano Jazmin Price took on the huge responsibility of delivering quality pitch and tone. Price’s ability to accurately sing the rhythms in the piece correctly truly offered a spacious and fulfilling ending to the African American Art, Song and Spiritual Concert. Like the song’s message, the audience was planted, rooted, steady, and unmoving during this performance.
Other performances included “Deep River,” “Stan’ Still Jordan,” “God is a God,” and much more.