American Spiritual Ensemble – Digital Program Notes

Singers from the American Spiritual Ensemble in concert. Photo by Henry Huhulag.

NC State LIVE presents
American Spiritual Ensemble
Dr. Everett McCorvey, Founder and Music Director

The Power of Spirituals: A Virtual Concert and Conversation
Wednesday, January 27 at 5:30pm EST
With Guest, Eileen Guenther, Author and Narrator
Conversation Moderated by Gabriel Montague, NC State Student

PROGRAM

Musical Selection

“Walk Together Children”

Arr. Wm Harry Smith

Welcome from Dr. Everett McCorvey, Founder and Director
American Spiritual Ensemble

Welcome from Christopher Miller, Director of Education
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Musical Selection

“Gimme Dat Ol’ Time Religion” (With Prayer)
from God’s Trombones
Poems by James Weldon Johnson based upon American Negro Folk Sermons
Alicia Helm-McCorvey, Exhorter

Music by Roy Ringwald 

Old Time Religion

Commentary
Eileen Guenther, Author        

Reading          
Kenneth Overton

Musical Selection

“Witness”
Kenneth Overton, Baritone
James Davis, Piano

Arr. Hall Johnson

Reading          
Phumzile Sojola 

Musical Selection

“Soon Ah Will Be Done”
American Spiritual Ensemble
Karen Slack, Soprano Soloist
Ali Bar, Djembe

Arr. Robert Jefferson

Life of the Enslaved

Commentary
Eileen Guenther, Author

Musical Selection

“No More Auction Block”
Nathaniel Thompson, Bass
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano  

Anonymous

Musical Selection

“Over My Head”
Victoria Ellington, Soprano

Anonymous

Musical Selection

“Every Time I Feel the Spirit”
American Spiritual Ensemble

Arr. Stacey V. Gibbs

Reading
Everett McCorvey

Musical Selection

“Watch and Pray”
Erica Gabriel, Soprano
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano

Arr. Undine Smith Moore

Musical Selection

“Spiritual Reflection”
American Spiritual Ensemble
Key’mon Murrah, Countertenor

Arr. Moses Hogan

Escape and Code

Commentary
Eileen Guenther, Author

Reading
Victoria Ellington

Musical Selection

“Steal Away”
Victoria Ellington, Soprano

Anonymous

Reading
Kathy Bullock

Musical Selection

“Way Over in Beulah-Lan”

arr. By Hall Johnson

Musical Selection

“Swing Low”
Jeryl Cunningham, Soprano

Anonymous

Musical Selection

“Great God Almighty”
American Spiritual Ensemble
Kevin Tate, Dancer
Ali Bar, Djembe

Arr. Stacey V. Gibbs

Reading
Andrea Jones-Sojola

Musical Selection

“Go Down, Moses”
American Spiritual Ensemble
Nathaniel Thompson, Bass Soloist
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano
Ali Bar, Djembe

Arr. Johnie Dean

Musical Selection

“Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”
American Spiritual Ensemble
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano
Kevin Tate, Dancer

Arr. Robert L. Jefferson

Reading
Chauncy Packer

Musical Selection

“Dry Bones”
Chauncy Packer, Tenor
Jim Davis, Piano

Arr. Margaret Bonds

Commentary
Eileen Gunther, Author

Musical Selection

“Deep River”
Nathaniel Thompson, Bass
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano

Arr. Harry T. Burleigh

Hope and Freedom

Reading
Nathaniel Thompson

Musical Selecion

“Ride On King Jesus”
Erin Duane Brooks, Tenor  

Arr. Hall Johnson

Musical Selection

“Who Is Dat-A-Yonder?”

American Spiritual Ensemble
Erica Gabriel, Soprano Soloist
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano

Arr. Jacqueline Hairston

Musical Selection

“Stand the Storm”
Jeryl Cunningham, Soprano
Jim Davis, Piano

Arr. Tim Amukele

Black Lives Matter

Musical Selection

“Don’ You Let Nobody Turn You Round”
American Spiritual Ensemble
Alicia Helm McCorvey, Soprano Soloist

Arr. Jacqueline Hairston

Commentary
Eileen Guenther, Author

Musical Selection

“We Shall Walk Through The Valley In Peace”
American Spiritual Ensemble

Arr. Moses Hogan

Musical Selection

“This Little Light of Mine”
Key’mon Murrah, Countertenor
Kay’mon Murrah, Tenor
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano

Arr. Johnie Dean

Conclusion
Everett McCorvey

Musical Selection

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”
American Spiritual Ensemble

Arr. Roland Carter

Performance Credits

American Spiritual Ensemble
Everett McCorvey, Founder and Conductor
Jeryl Cunningham Fleming, Assistant Conductor
Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Piano
Peggy Stamps Business Manager

Transylvania University Performance
Lexington, Kentucky

Sopranos
Erica Gabriel
Jessica Bayne
Alicia Helm McCorvey
Kathrin Thawley

Tenors
Kay’mon Murrah
Wagner Mauricio Pastor
Mark Kano
Whit Whitaker

Altos
Key’mon Murrah
Kendra Beasley
Kathy Bullock


Basses
Michael Preacely
Phillip Bullock
Clement Baloyi
Nathaniel Thompson
William Clay Thompson

Pianist
Tedrin Blair Lindsay

Djembe
Ali Barr

American Choral Directors Eastern Region Convention
Rochester, New York Performance

Sopranos
Nicole Butler
Jeryl Cunningham-Fleming
Alicia Helm
Shenika John Jordan
Kathrin Thawley
Angela Owens

Tenors
Edwin Cotton
Kay’mon Murrah
Taiwan Norris
Chauncey Packer
Kevin Webb
John Wesley Wright

Altos
GeDeane Graham
Hope Koehler
Key’mon Murrah
Courtney Porter


Basses
Richard Coleman
Martin Hargrove
Kenneth Overton
Michael Parham
Nigel Sangster
Kyle Yampiro

Pianist
Tedrin Blair Lindsay

Djembe
Ali Barr

American Cathedral Performance
Paris, France

Sopranos
Karen Slack
Jeryl Cunningham-Fleming
Angela Brown
Rebecca Eaddy
Angela Owens

Tenors
Roderick L. George
Cameo Humes
Taiwan Norris
Bernard Holcomb
John Wesley Wright

Altos
Leah Dexter
Hope Koehler
Gus Mercante
Sarah Nordin
Matthew Truss


Baritones
Adam Richardson
Phillip Boykin
Keith Dean
Martin Hargrove
Kevin Thompson

Pianist
Tedrin Blair Lindsay

Djembe
Ali Barr

DiMenna Center for Classical Music – Benzaquen Hall Performance
New York, New York

Errin Brooks, Tenor
Kenneth Overton, Bariton
Andrea Jones-Sojola, Soprano
Chauncey Packer, Tenor
Phumzile Sojola, Tenor
Jeryl Cunningham-Fleming, Soprano
Kevin Tate, Dancer
James Davis, Pianist
Ouinton Tramm, Videographer
Jason Tramm, Consultant, Videographer
Peggy Stamps, The SquarePeg Group, Inc, Business Affairs

Acknowledgements for the ASE 2021 Virtual Tour Broadcast Performance

Video Director, Editor, Videographer
Nick Helton

Audio Production
Dave Henderson Recording 

Paris, France Video Production
Michel Violet 
Biopics Productions 

Digital Images
New York Public Library Digital Collections
Nypl.org
Canva
Library of Congress
Loc.gov

Biographies

The American Spiritual Ensemble was founded by Everett McCorvey in 1995.  The mission of the American Spiritual Ensemble is to keep the American Negro Spiritual alive. Its members have sung in theaters and opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and abroad in Italy, Germany, Britain, Scotland, Spain, China, and Japan. The repertoire of the American Spiritual Ensemble ranges from opera to spirituals to Broadway. The members of the American Spiritual Ensemble are soloists in their own right and have thrilled audiences around the world with their dynamic renditions of classic spirituals, jazz, and Broadway numbers highlighting the Black experience.

Everett McCorvey is a native of Montgomery, Alabama. He received his degrees from the University of Alabama, including a Doctorate of Musical Arts.  Dr. McCorvey has performed in major centers around the world including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, Radio City Music Hall in New York and in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, China, Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak Republics. During the summers, Dr. McCorvey has served on the artist faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria and the Intermezzo Opera Program in Palm Beach, Florida. Currently he is on the Summer Artist Faculty of the Bay View Music Festival in Bay View, Michigan and conductor at Mythos Opera Festival in Taromina, Sicily.  Dr. McCorvey is a Professor of Voice, Endowed Chair in Opera Studies and Director of Opera at the University of Kentucky.  In September of 2010, Dr. McCorvey served as the Executive Producer of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Alltech 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games held in Lexington.  The Alltech 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games remain to date, the largest equestrian event ever held in the United States. Dr. McCorvey also serves as the Artistic Director of the National Chorale of New York City www.nationalchorale.org. Follow Dr. McCorvey on www.everettmccorvey.com and the American Spiritual Ensemble at www.americanspiritualensemble.com

Ali Barr, Djembe, was born in Philadelphia.  He has been playing percussion instruments and jazz trumpet, from childhood under the guidance of his father, Dr. James Barr, and master drummer, Bobby Crowder. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, Ali has recorded and performed extensively with various artists, including Grammy nominated Russell Gunn, the legendary Roy Ayers, and Jamaledeen Tacuma.

Errin Brooks, Tenor, currently based in New York, hails from Detroit, MI and received his Master of Music Degree from Bowling Green State University. Most recently, Mr. Brooks covered Dick Johnson in Fanciulla del West withNew York City Opera after singing Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Verdi’s Requiem with Utah Festival Opera. In April 2018, the George London Award-winning tenor will sing Canio in I Pagliacci with Boheme Opera of New Jersey.

Dr. Kathy Bullock is Professor Emeritus of music at Berea College, Berea, Kentucky where she worked for almost thirty years. She is also currently an Adjunct Professor of Music at University of Kentucky, School of Music. Having earned the Ph.D. and M.A. in Music Theory from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and a B.A. in Music from Brandeis University, MA, her work has included teaching music and general studies courses, directing the college gospel choirs, designing and implementing international courses in West Africa and the Caribbean.  Dr. Bullock is now performing and conducting workshops in African American Sacred Music throughout the United States, Europe and Africa, sharing hope and joy during these challenging times.

Praised by Opera News for his “appealingly suave baritone,” Phillip K. Bullock is a native of Washington DC and has been featured in operas, recitals and concerts throughout the United States. Phillip had the pleasure of performing the role of Jake, in Porgy and Bess, at the Sächsische Staatsoper in Dresden, Germany and covered the same role in The Royal Danish Opera’s new production of Porgy and Bess in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Last season, Phillip completed residencies with both Cincinnati Opera and Virginia Opera, both performing and covering in their productions of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Donizetti’s l’Elisir d’Amore respectively.  He has also been seen in concert performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Kurt Weil’s Seven Deadly Sins with National Music Festival Orchestra in Washington, D.C. in addition to Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Fanciulla del West, Don Carlos, Le Nozze di Figaro, Carmen, Die Zauberflöte, La Boheme, and Mark Adamo’s Little Women.  In 2020, Phillip made his debut with the Atlanta Opera in Francesca Zambello’s production of Porgy and Bess and will premiere Gregory Spears’ new opera Castor and Patience with Cincinnati Opera this coming summer.   For more information  www.PhillipBullock.com.

Toronto-born classical guitarist Danielle Cumming is a celebrated performer and teacher. Holding a doctorate from McGill University, she is Artistic Director of the Marlow Guitar International Concert Series in Washington, D.C., and heads of the guitar area at Salisbury University in Maryland. After a year of study in Spain, Danielle released her solo, world music-influenced CD postcards, a recording of 20th century repertoire featuring internationally acclaimed composers. Dr. Cumming is also a certified yoga instructor and has created/taught yoga programs to help musicians prevent injuries and handle performance anxiety. Danielle is a D’Addario Artist. ​  

Jeryl Cunningham-Fleming, Soprano, and Assistant Director of the American Spiritual Ensemble, has been heard in more than ten countries and on four continents. She was featured in several new compositions this year which includes Symphony No. 2 – the Most Jubilant Song by Glen Roven, and Thy Will Be Done, an Easter Cantata written by Angela Rice. Recent performances include Revelations (Alvin Ailey) and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Dr. Cunningham received her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance at Oakwood University. She obtained her master’s degree in vocal performance at Mannes College of Music; and has completed a doctoral degree at the University of Kentucky. For more information www.jerylcunningham.com.

Soprano Victoria Ellington recently received her Master of Music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) where she studied with Professor William McGraw.  At CCM, Ellington has been seen in Cavalli’s La Calisto as L’Eternità as well as Esmerelda in Smetana’s The Barterd Bride.. Victoria also sang in Blind Injustice and Awakenings with Opera Fusion: New Works program, a joint collaboration between Cincinnati Opera and CCM Opera. In past summers she was also a part of Cincinnati Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess. She is looking forward to participating in the world premiere of Fierce by William Menefield with Cincinnati Opera in the 2021 season.

Erica Gabriel, Soprano,received her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Oakwood University and her Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Michigan.  She has performed with the Chicago Symphony orchestra, Savannah Philharmonic and the Jackson Symphony. Erica is also the 2018 gold medal winner of the American Traditions Vocal Competition. 

Eileen Guenther, Professor of Church Music Emerita at Wesley Theological Seminary, holds bachelor’s degrees from the University of Kansas and graduate degrees from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. A noted author, church musician, and organ recitalist, Dr. Guenther has written two critically acclaimed books: Rivals or a Team: Clergy-Musician Relationships in the 21st Century and In Their Own Words: Slave Life and the Power of Spirituals.  She has a passion for the power of the Spiritual and has led over one hundred presentations on In Their Own Words with choirs, soloists and congregations from Atlanta, GA to Ashland Oregon. The most common response to these presentations has been:  “I have sung these Spirituals all my life and I never knew that.”

Alicia Helm McCorvey, Soprano, has performed with various companies including Metropolitan Opera, North Carolina Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Miami Opera, Bronx Opera (NY), Summerfest (Lexington, KY), Paragon Musical Theater (Lexington, KY) and has performed in Spain, England, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and Japan, among others.  She has a Bachelor degree from Indiana University and a Master of Arts degree from New York University. Ms. Helm has also studied at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and the D.M.A. program at the University of Kentucky.

Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Pianist, was raised in Rome, Italy and has been a professional accompanist since the age of ten.  He performs well over one hundred recitals annually, boasting a huge repertoire of vocal and instrumental chamber works, with specialties in 20th century French and American music.  Dr. Lindsay is presently on the opera faculty at the University of Kentucky, where he works as vocal coach and musical director.

Kay’Mon Murrah, Tenor, a lyric tenor from Louisville, Kentucky, is known to bring warmth and brilliance to the opera stage. He has recently made his Kentucky Opera debut as Kasper in their production of Amahl and the Night Visitors and understudied the Armed Man role in their production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

Key’Mon Murrah, Countertenor,herald for his wide range and “hot coal core o tone”, is a native to Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Murrah has sung the role of Tolomeo from Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Asprano from Vivaldi’s Montezuma. Murrah was recently selected to sing a Masterclass with Joyce DiDonato at Carnegie Hall. 2020 Metropolitan Opera Council District Winner. This summer he will cover the role of the Magician from Handel’s Rinaldo with the Glimmerglass Festival.

Baritone Kenneth Overton is a 2020 Grammy Award Nominated artist for the title role in The   Naxos Label Recording of Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua with the Buffalo Philharmonic. For his portrayal of Stephen Kumalo, in Kurt Weill’s Lost in The Stars, Baritone Kenneth Overton was nominated for the 2019 St. Louis Theatre Circle Award for “Outstanding Performance in an Opera”. Kenneth is enjoying singing leading roles at some of the world’s great opera houses such as, San Francisco Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, Palacio Bellas Artes, New York City Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the Royal Danish Opera as well as many regional opera houses in the U.S. including Opera Memphis, Nashville Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera, Opera Idaho, and Opera Grand Rapids. Kenneth is also the associate producer of the upcoming documentary, BLACK OPERA. For more informationwww.KennethOverton.com and www.BlackOperaFilm.com

Chauncey Packer is an exciting American tenor. Mr. Packer is originally from southern Alabama where he received his undergraduate degree from University of Mobile. He relocated to New Orleans where he pursued a master’s degree in music from University of New Orleans and postgraduate studies at Louisiana State University in music and theater. Mr. Packer’s 2019 engagements include soloist in Mozart’s Requiem (Colour of Music Festival), featured soloist on a concert with Saint-George International Music Festival (Guadeloupe, FR), Sportin’ Life with New York Harlem’s Porgy and Bess at Teatro Regio (Torino, Italy), and in the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at Soo Theatre Project (Michigan). He will make his Metropolitan Opera debut in the roles of Robbins and Crabman and cover Sportin’ Life in their Porgy and Bess production 2019-20. Mr. Packer will join Maestro Alan Gilbert and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in concert of  Porgy and Bess in the 2021, and will be featured in the Metropolitan Opera’s new productions Fire Shut Up in My Bones and the revival of Porgy and Bess.

Phumzile Sojola, Tenor, has just finished performing four years as Ubaldo Piangi with Phantom of the Opera North American Tour and Peter in Porgy and Bess with Harrisburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Born and raised in South Africa, Phumzile Sojola made his Broadway debut as Peter in the Tony award winning Porgy and Bess and followed that as Lord Pinkelton in the original cast of Cinderella. On the operatic stage He has performed Herisson in Chabriers L’etoile and Popo in Troubled Island with New York City Opera. His other roles are Rodolfo in La Boheme Missouri Symphony Orchestra,  Leader Lost in the Stars, Remendado in Carmen and Monostatos in the Magic Flute with Dayton Opera. From 2007 to 2017 he was one of the Tenors who sang in the show 3 Mo Tenors on tour and Off Broadway in NY. Phumzile also performed Jason Moran’s work songs at the 2015 La Biennale  di Venezzia with Jason Moran.  

Peggy Stamps, Business Manager, is the founder and owner of The SquarePeg Group, Inc. (SPG), a NYC based talent management company. SPG represents a select group of actors who have appeared in feature film, television, and Broadway productions.  Peggy has an extensive background in entertainment, including 15 years as the director of a regional Emmy Award winning Broadway Musical Review.   Peggy founded SPG in 2010 and in 10 short years has developed a client base with recent credits including feature films The Photograph, How to Be Single, and Hidden Figures. Television credits include Wu Tang:  An American Saga, Lincoln Rhyme:  Hunt for the Bone Collector, FBI, Power III, For Life, Pose, and Nickelodeon’s Butterbean’s Café. Stage credits include Tina Turner:  The Musical Broadway, Hamilton Broadway Tour, The Lion King Broadway Tour (6 clients), Waitress Broadway, Mean Girls Broadway, and Porgy and Bess Broadway Tour.  In 2018, one of Peggy’s voiceover clients, age 12, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her leading voiceover work on a popular Nickelodeon series.  In addition to managing, Peggy freelances as a stage director/choreographer. Peggy is a Purdue University engineering alumna.  She worked in high tech corporate America for 25 years prior to launching SPG.   Peggy is an active member of the Talent Managers Association (TMA).

Nathaniel Thompson, Bass, has toured the United States, South America and Europe with performances of opera, spirituals, gospel and jazz. Most recently, Nathaniel made his debut as the Undertaker in Cincinnati Opera’s production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

Tenor John Wesley Wright holds degrees from Maryville College and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned the M.M. and D.M.A. in Performance Studies. A native of Rome, Georgia, he works as Associate Professor of Music at Salisbury University (Salisbury, MD), coordinating the voice and opera workshop programs. An active clinician and leader of workshops on voice production, interpretation, and African American song tradition, he also co-directed the musical theatre program at the Maryland Summer Center of the Arts (2007-2014). He performs solo repertoire ranging from Bach to Broadway throughout the world, including as a member of the internationally celebrated American Spiritual Ensemble. Acclaim has also come as gold medalist of the American Traditions Vocal Competition 2000, with other top prizes from the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Metropolitan Opera National Council, and the International Schubert Competition. His doctoral dissertation (2014) studies musical borrowings underlying the role of the Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass.