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The McNeil Jubilee Singers

February 22, 1998



The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers

The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers perform a wide variety of African and African-American vocal music: African folk songs, traditional and contemporary spirituals, concert music by African-American composers, black gospel, and music from black theater.

The traditional and contemporary spirituals on this week’s Saint Paul Sunday program represent quite a departure from the earliest settings of spirituals originally heard sung by slaves in the early 19th century. These works can trace their name to a period surrounding the great conversion of slaves, but as folk songs their original forms are impossible to establish.

Concert spirituals were made famous in the 1860s and 70s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group of recently freed slaves studying at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, who brought the traditional spiritual to the concert stage. Contemporary arrangers such as Moses Hogan, Albert McNeil, and Howard Roberts are continuing to breathe new life into the form with new versions of these beloved African-American classics.

Gospel music can easily be described as the Black religious music of the twentieth century, and although based upon the spiritual, gospel music’s unique texts, rhythms, melodies and the use of instruments clearly separates it from its earlier spiritual, which is always sung a cappella. Larry Farrow’s Blessed Quietness even incorporates jazz elements into the traditional gospel form.


The two South African songs on the program are reflections of more recent black history—the struggle against apartheid: Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’kwenkhos’ ("We are Marching in the Light of God"); and the Zulu song NonQonQo by Mariam Makeba, a memorial to the prison in South Africa where Mandela, Sesuslu and other black activists were incarcerated. Listen: (RealAudio 3.0)

Adapted from the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers program notes.

Program Repetoire

  Albert McNeil

Albert McNeil, Conductor

arr. Moses Hogan:
I'm Gonna Sing 'till the Spirit Moves Me
South African Freedom Song: Siyahamb'ekuhanyen'Kwenkhos'
("We are Marching in the Light of God")
arr. Howard Roberts: Rocka My Soul
arr. Hall Johnson: Jesus Lay Your Head in the Winder
arr. Albert McNeil: John the Revelator
arr. Albert McNeil: Dry Bones
Thomas Dorsey/arr. Arnold Sevier: Precious Lord
Miriam Makeba/arr. Larry Farrow: Non QonQuo
Rosephanye Powell: The Word Was God
Robert Page: There's a City Called Heaven
arr. Larry Farrow: Blessed Quietness
arr. Larry Farrow: O Happy Day