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Fisk Jubilee Singers supply southern flair to music, dance festival

Despite the distance, Ohio University students can get an earful of the south this weekend.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers will perform a concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Templeton- Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium Saturday as part of the Ohio University World Music and Dance Festival.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers are a group of singers and students from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, who perform a capella gospel and Negro spirituals.

According to the group’s website, the group was formed in 1871 as a nine-member choir when Fisk University was in financial turmoil. It has received international attention after performing at the White House and receiving a floor to ceiling painting from Queen Victoria during a 1873 tour.

Today, the group has 16 members and is directed by Paul Kwami who has led the group since 1994. Each performer had to audition to become a member.

“I look for high level of musicianship, ability to sing and character to gain entrance into the group,” Kwami said.

Kwami said he and the group were excited to be performing in the festival.

“It is a nice outlet for our style of music,” Kwami said.

As part of the World Music and Dance Festival, the group will perform several selections of “slave songs” and “negro spirituals.” Paschal Yao Younge, associate professor of multicultural music education, said this represents an important part of the festival.

“Given the popularity of spiritual/gospel music worldwide and the contribution of African Americans to world music in general, we believe the visit of the Fisk Jubilee Singers provides the opportunity for our OU family to experience first hand the beauty and richness of a unique American art form,” Younge said.

The World Music and Dance Festival runs from Feb. 1 to 11 and is a celebration that includes 45 different OU programs and departments. This is the festival’s second year, Younge said.

“We want to introduce our students to different ways of conceptualizing music and dance and potentially opening up new avenues of creativity, expression, and aesthetic appreciation for the arts,” Younge said.


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