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Last modified: Friday, April 6, 2012

African American Choral Ensemble spring concert highlights theme of 'Amazing Grace'

April 5, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington's African American Choral Ensemble will present its annual spring concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at Willkie Auditorium, 150 N. Rose St.

African American Choral Ensemble Spring Concert

Members of the African American Choral Ensemble will perform at their spring concert Saturday, April 14.

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The African American Choral Ensemble's program will draw from a rich and varied array of black sacred genres, from the spiritual to contemporary gospel, focusing on the theme of "Amazing Grace."

"All around the world, 'Amazing Grace' is a song of redemption and transformation," ensemble director Keith McCutchen said. "This concert examines songs of faith and hope, which are the universal principles found in the lyrics of these spirituals: formally composed, folk tunes, hymns and gospel selections."

The concert begins with a pianissimo, haunting melody sung by unaccompanied sopranos in the traditional spiritual, "Mary Was the Queen of Galilee," arranged by Wendell Whalum. Johanna Moffitt, featured soloist, soars above the choir in the soprano descant to a powerful crescendo and climax of the piece. "Sounds Spiritual," a medley of spirituals arranged by Gary Hines for Sounds of Blackness, merges the spiritual and gospel traditions.

Arranged by McCutchen, "Amazing Grace" uses ornaments and interpolations of the traditional melody handed down in the oral tradition of the African American church. The contemporary selection "Free," recorded by Natalie Wilson and the S.O.P. Chorale, fuses gospel with jazz and includes a powerful call-and-response solo delivered by alto Lakeisha Johnson. "Psalm 27" and "Safe in His Arms" are traditional gospel selections, which contrast nicely; "Psalm 27" demonstrates upbeat counterpoint, while "Safe in His Arms" is both slow and soulful.

Although the jazz standard "On Green Dolphin Street," originally made famous by Miles Davis, is traditionally performed as a relaxed ballad, McCutchen's arrangement provides an upbeat tempo, complex rhythmic structure and syncopation, featuring dynamic soloists Alex Young and Seth Wimberly on saxophone with Jamaal Baptiste on piano.

"The African American experience has a rich spiritual tradition that has also inspired social and political change," McCutchen said. "Nowhere is the power of this tradition made more evident than in music."

Tickets for the concert will be sold exclusively at the door. General admission for adults is $10. Children and students (limit two per ID) are $5.

The African American Arts Institute is committed to promoting and preserving African American culture through performance, education, creative activity, research and outreach. For more information and a calendar of events, visit the African American Arts Institute website or call 812-855-5427. The institute's executive director is Charles E. Sykes. The African American Arts Institute is a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.

Arts Week Everywhere
The African American Choral Ensemble's performance is one of the highlights of Arts Week Everywhere, the annual celebration focused on arts on campus and in the community. Coordinated by the Office of the Provost and students in IU's Master of Arts Administration program, Arts Week Everywhere events take place throughout the month of April.

For more information about Arts Week Everywhere, visit