By Hailli Woo
Thursday, Feb. 11, the critically-acclaimed American Spiritual Ensemble filled Decker Theater with their soulful and graceful voices. This group travels around the globe and brings audiences to their feet with their historic spirituals.
While many students were required to attend the concert, there were also many people from the town of Chestertown in attendance. Professors Jon McCollum and Ken Schweitzer put together this spectacular event, and they couldn’t be more proud of how it went.
“Walking in to Decker Theatre at 7:20 p.m., I was taken aback at the enormous audience, that included a strong showing by Washington College students, our wonderful patrons, and a broad representation from the Chestertown community. This is a group we definitely plan to bring back,” said Schweitzer.
This event was a perfect way to recognize African-American History Month. “On this occasion, marking African-American history month, the Washington College Concert Series, supported by a plethora of organizations including the Black Studies Program, the Department of Music, the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Hedgelawn Foundation, the Kent County Arts Council, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the William James Forum, was proud to offer this performance of both traditional and re-interpretations of the rich heritage of Negro Spirituals,” said McCollum.
The conductor Dr. Everett McCorvey did a great job of explaining the music and the history behind the music. Even for those who didn’t really know what to expect, were surely entertained and filled with joy as soon as the program started. The program lasted about two-and-a-half-hours, with a short intermission in between sets.
“The American Spiritual Ensemble’s talent and showmanship was on full display at the Feb. 11 performance in Decker Hall at the Gibson Centre for the Arts at Washington College,” said McCollum. Excitement is just one of the adjectives used to describe this group. The classically trained group doesn’t only target an older age, but rather people of all ages and musical tastes.
This ensemble has impacted so many people that they have a “Reviews” page on their website. Just to note some reviews, “The ensemble, made up of operatic voices from around the country, produces a sound of such sumptuous power, energy and commitment that one is hard put to find words worthy of the effect they make on an audience,” said Richard Storm of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The American Spiritual Ensemble closed their performance with the song, “The Circle Of Life,” which was made popular by the film, “The Lion King.” Everyone in the audience knew the song and was moved. Every direction you looked, you could see the rhthym taking over the bodies of the audience members. “While it is difficult to put into words the impact that their dramatic performance had on our surrounding community, the audience’s boisterous responses echoed my own excitement at hearing such divine sounds,” McCollum said.
You can find more information about The American Spiritual Ensemble on their website: http://www.americanspiritualensemble.com.