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February 13, 2009
Vol. 50 No. 15

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The American Spiritual Ensemble sings for Black History Month

Courtesy of Alkahest Artists & Attractions
Vibrant spirits-- The American Spiritual Ensemble will perform Feb. 17 for the Artist Series at 7:30 p.m. in the Degenstein Theater. The concert will honor Susquehanna's theme, "Memory," and Black History Month. The ensemble was formed in 1995 and its repertoire includes classical, Broadway and dance.
The American Spiritual Ensemble will be performing Feb. 17 as the third and final installment of this year's Artist Series. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Degenstein Theater.

Valerie Martin, dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Communications, explained that having the ensemble at Susquehanna during Black History Month was a "fortuitous point of connection," noting that scheduling the group was "timing meeting with intention."

"We always look for a connection to a diversity event for at least one of our programs," Martin said. "In the past, we collaborated with the Latino symposium. This seemed to be a natural fit."

As with the series' past performances, Martin said that bringing the group to Susquehanna was another chance to incorporate this year's University Theme, "Memory," into a larger picture.

"This is yet another snapshot of American history; [spirituals] are a part of our nation's heritage. This is memory through a musical event," Martin said.

Formed in 1995, the American Spiritual Ensemble's mission is to "keep the American Negro Spiritual alive and vibrant," according to its Web site.

While the group may be formally titled the American Spiritual Ensemble, their repertoire includes not only their namesake but classical, Broadway and dance music as well.

The ensemble is composed of some of the finest classically-trained singers in the U.S. with 90 percent of its members being accomplished soloists who have sung in opera houses around the world. The group also includes five lead Broadway performers including one Tony Award winner and two Tony nominees.

According to its Web site, the ensemble recently finished its 10th tour of Spain and many of its members have performed in U.S. venues including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Boston Opera and the Atlanta Civic Opera. They have also performed abroad in England, Germany, Italy, Japan and Scotland and will be featured in PBS's upcoming documentary, "The Spirituals."

Before the performance, founder and music director Everett McCorvey will present a lecture of the history and legacy of the American Negro spiritual in Stretansky Concert Hall in the Cunningham Center.

After learning that the ensemble gives pre-performance lectures, Martin said that she invited McCorvey to speak and "reached out to the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) to help sponsor the lecture."

In addition to help from the OMA, this Artist Series performance is also being funded through a grant received from Target.

"We specifically created a grant proposal for this performance," Martin said. "It seemed to fit with Target's philanthropic mission. Five percent of the corporation's income is donated to organizations that support education, the arts, social services and volunteerism."

Target is also underwriting a portion of the performance to make all student tickets free. Student tickets must be reserved or claimed before Feb. 17. Adult tickets are $20 and senior citizen tickets are $15. All sales can be purchased through the Degenstein Box Office by calling (570) 372-ARTS.

"This is about a part of American history. It's viewing our history through a cultural event" Martin said. "These are highly trained musicians so the performance will be outstanding."

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