24 August 2012


My first encounter with this illustrious group of multi-talented women was many years ago at Fisk Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee.  My husband and I took our three daughters who were elementary age to the concert and the joy and excitement on their faces mirrored what the audience was feeling that night.

Dr. Bernice Reagon, the founder, was with the group at that time and she would weave a tale about the origins of the song they were about to sing which was just magical.  This talented, innovative and wise griot established the ensemble in 1973 as part of the D.C. Black Repertory Theatre Company. Their mission was to provide our country and the world a musical history of the African American experience with its traditions, sacred music, human rights struggles as well as the humor and wit of our unique folklore. She is no longer with the company and her voice is sorely missed, however, these ladies haven't missed a step and continue to mesmerize audiences all over the world with sustained international acclaim. The background of the current members is a must read and one can only marvel at the dynamic process of bringing these amazing women together.

A cappella  has a long and disputed history depending on your sources and from my perspective is the most unique form of musical expression.  A simple definition is singing without instrumental accompaniment. The voice is its own ensemble and when others join with the same measure; you have a symphony.  The most common and popular examples of this style are Barbershop and Doo Wop. A few of the historical styles are listed as Gregorian chant, ancient Jewish/Christian sacred songs and "slave spirituals" introduced to the world by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1870's). Many congregations today sing their hymns without musical accompaniment. This talented group, however, has remained an innovative force within this genre and continues to amaze their audiences by taking it to new heights.  First lady, Michelle Obama  featured them at the White House's celebration of Black History Month to entertain as well as educate area school children. Therefore, another generation is introduced to these wonderful women of song.

Just recently, I was discussing this group with my adult daughters and it was heartwarming to learn that they never forgot that performance at Fisk Chapel many years ago and the firstborn --who is a published poet stated that it marked the beginning of her enthusiastic love for the arts.


Anonymous said...

While I have yet to see them perform live, I have heard their music and saw them on television, years ago. Now, with the internet, many can get an introduction. But, I know nothing beats a live performance, which your posts makes reference to one of your daughters being inspired to do poetry.

They are some talented sistas, I tell you! Their music is so uplifting. I think I am going listen to some of their music right now. Thank you for highlighting these great women of our cultural heritage!

Carolyn said...

Thank you Keke for stopping by and commenting on this wonderful group of women. They are an event to witness in a live performance. The invigorating force in that setting was something I still remember from many years ago. Whenever, I've viewed their performances on T.V. or on YouTube in the subsequent years; the memory of that night years ago would become re-energized.

Nelson Souzza said...

Hello my dear friend Carolyn! Thank you for being my consistent visitor and become my friend here... A smile and a greeting for you from Rio de Janeiro/Brasil.

Anna Renee said...

Breaths is my favorite of their songs. I'm not familiar with all they have done, but I do have one good CD of their work that I bought about 15 years ago. Through this CD, I feel very well aquainted with their artistry.

When I hear of people mourning their dead, I always think of this song. It's a comfort to know "our dead are not under the earth"

Another acapella group I love is Soweto Gospel Choir. They are magnificent - and young! We need more youth to take on acapella singing. Of course you need to be able to sing.


Carolyn said...

I like "Breaths" as well and I've told my daughters as part of my "celebration of life" that they play that and "Old Ship of Zion". Dr. Reagon's lead on the latter brings tears to my eyes and puts me in 'rocking motion' every time I hear it. In fact, the encore version of that during Dr. Reagon's last performance with the group is on my sidebar.

Thanks for the link to the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Icahbanjarmasin said...

Nice article really I like it great day 4U and keep in touch from INDONESIA with smile.

Carolyn said...

@Icahbanjarmasin..Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your support. Shall visit Indonesia soon!

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