By: Dr. Marion Williams
The outstanding Tuskegee University Golden Voice Choir presented a “Free Concert” at the Trinity Presbyterian Church on 3400 Bayou Boulevard on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. as part of a musical tribute to Black History Month.
The concert was part of the Legacy Concert Series presented by the church. Thirty–five young people from Tuskegee University, along with their conductor/director Dr. Wayne Barr, and Ms. Brenda Shuford, their appointed choral accompanist, presented a stellar vocal performance for an audience of approximately 100 persons.
The program was in three parts: Anthems, Sacred and Secular Songs and,
Hymns and Spirituals. The program opened with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro National Anthem and it was performed in a three-part harmony. The audience stood in respect while the choir sang it. This rendition was simply beautiful and sent ‘chills up one’s spine’.
The Anthems, Sacred and Secular songs included works by Felix Mendelssohn, Roland Burchard, and Rosephanyne Powell. Each song was delivered with crisp, crystal clear high notes, flowing melodies and moving crescendos that the audience loved. They applauded vigorously after each song! “I waited for the Lord, “Even when He is silent” along with Italian songs “Sitvit Anima Mae” and “Non Nobis Domine” were superbly done.
The hymn “ Precious Lord,” and “Let All the World in Every Corner Sing,” were professionally performed. Since the choir consisted of young university students from diverse academic majors, it was obvious that they loved music, yet few were music majors. As intermission approached, the choir members left the stage for a short break.
After the intermission, Dr. Barr explained to the audience that “Negro Spirituals” were songs of former slaves that helped them to communicate with each other and serve as ‘”passive resistance.” Further, Dr. Barr related that spirituals were a means of expression and a way to praise God. The Spirituals: “Oh, Freedom, I know I’ve Been Changed, In His Care, and There is a Balm in Gilead,” were among the audience’s favorites.
The Tuskegee Choir has its origin when Dr. Booker T. Washington needed “singers” to lead vesper services on campus and to sing for special occasions.
In 1930, the choir performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York, they sang for President Herbert Hoover, and later for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In the 1960s, the choir performed at Carnegie Hall for President John F. Kennedy, and later for President Bill Clinton. The Golden Voices Choir has become world renown.
The Choir Director, Dr. Wayne Barr is professionally trained. He has served as organist, and choir director at several churches in Alabama, Michigan, New Jersey, and in Texas. Dr. Barr is co-director of the Italian Opera Abroad Program. Additionally, he is very active in the Tuskegee community, Repertory Theater and is a national conductor.
Ms. Brenda Shuford, is the newly appointed choral accompanist for the choral department at the university. She is a former teacher in Montgomery, Alabama. Ms. Shuford is a certified music educator, choral conductor, vocalist and accomplished pianist. The Golden Voices choir practices nearly every day, and it shows.
Towards the end of the program, other spirituals that were presented were: “Get Away Jordan and the Tuskegee Song.”
Prior to the finale, Dr. Barr had each choir member introduce themselves and give their college major. About a third of the students were not from Alabama and/or were not music majors, mentioned earlier. There were a diversity of academic majors from engineering, to animal sciences, nursing and to the performing arts.
As the Tuskegee Song was sang, the Tuskegee Alumni locally were asked to stand. The Alumni Association of Pensacola and the Trinity Presbyterian Church were responsible for binging this wonderful choir to town.
Last February, during Black History Month, this group performed at the
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. They were superb then, as they were this year.
The audience gave this group a standing ovation as the night ended.
If you have not heard the Tuskegee Golden Voices Concert Choir, please do so. They simply are the “Greatest.”