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RESPECTFUL ENGAGEMENT AND COLLABORATION: a conscious effort for our program of Spirituals

Many facets contributed to the development of the African-American Spirituals we hear today. By nature, Spirituals are related to folk songs, a way that enslaved Africans expressed themselves. This unique type of folk song was part of a larger genre of music called the slave song.

Some of these folk songs used expressions of religious subjects and contained themes from Hebrew religious traditions. In addition, the Spiritual also accompanied other activities in plantation life. Texts often had a double meaning that served as a covert way of communication.

There are many existing Spirituals and an almost limitless amount of material to draw for our concert of Spirituals in March 2022. To honor and respect the legacy of enslaved African-Americans, Dr. Mabalot reached out to our guest soloist Ms. Shelia Tate who grew up singing the music of her community.

Ms. Sheila Tate was expressly invited to collaborate on the creation of our concert of Spirituals as part of ongoing efforts to respectfully engage with the African-American community. Ms. Tate was a vital part of this concert project through her leadership, guidance, and support of the overall vision of our artistic director.

Dr. Mabalot and Ms. Tate unitedly selected the pieces presented in our program through meetings and discussions. Preserving the integrity of each piece so that respectful cultural referencing could take place was a common goal. It became the guiding force on how we approached, learned, and performed the selection of Spirituals we presented in the concert.

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