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André Thomas to conduct LU Choral Arts



André Thomas

Lehigh University Choral Arts will introduce its first-ever guest conductor from outside the university on Friday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1 when it welcomes renowned choral conductor André Thomas.

Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Choral Music Education at Florida State University, Thomas will conduct In that Great Getting’ Up Mornin’—A Celebration of Spirituals. The performance, which tracks the beginnings of African music through its rise as of one of America’s greatest singing traditions, will be presented at 8 p.m. in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall.

"We are so happy to have André Thomas come in to direct us in this program of spirituals,” said Steven Sametz, director of Lehigh University Choral Arts. “Dr. Thomas is an expert in the literature and style, having written a definitive book, Way Over in Beulah Lan'. He is an inspiring conductor and pianist.”

The performance will feature the works In that Great Getting' Up Mornin’, Bonse Aba (African chant), Precious Lord, This Little Light of Mine, Swing Down Chariot and Robert Ray's Gospel Mass accompanied by drums, piano and bass guitar. Soprano Taylor Johnson, graduate student at Florida State, and tenor Derek Wilson, a Lehigh graduate, are the featured soloists.

“The program spans the history of the development from African chant to spirituals to gospel,” says Sametz. “Dr. Thomas conducts, plays and provides background to the spirituals through speaking and visual images. The high-power energy of the spirituals is introduced with a bit of history to give insight into the original meaning and purpose of each piece.”

Two Oct. 28 events kicked off the celebration

In addition to the concert, two related events were offered on Oct. 28 to help broaden understanding of spiritual concerts. William Scott, director of the Africana studies program, led a colloquium entitled “The Spiritual: Music of Lamentation and Liberation,” at Zoellner Arts Center Room 145.

Scott explained that various disciplines help develop a perspective on spiritual music. “You’ll see some politics—the whole idea of struggle and emancipation,” he says. “In terms of literature, you can look at spirituals as a literary art form. You can look at it from psychology—the psychic relief the people attempted to derive from the music. One can look at it from a social perspective in terms of it providing a means of recreation. There’s a broad range of feelings, emotions, and perspectives that students can derive from looking at spirituals.”

“The spirituals can be an avenue to understanding those terrible tensions in our society that we seem to be trying to resolve at one level today,” he adds.

Allso that night in the Black Box Theatre, Kashi Johnson, associate professor of theatre, presented a staged reading of Playing God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, a collection of poems written by James Weldon Johnson in 1927.

Tickets for the Oct. 31 or Nov. 1 performances are $18 or $5 for students. Visit www.zoellnerartscenter.org for more information.

--Tricia Long


Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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