Last night, Concordia students (mostly choir kids, like myself) and community members alike filled the seats of Memorial Auditorium to witness a truly spectacular musical event. Concordia, in partnership with Classical MPR, hosted a one-night performance by the American Spiritual Ensemble. Since its creation in 1995, the American Spiritual Ensemble has worked together to create beautiful music, tour around the world, and “keep the American Negro Spiritual alive.” The ensemble is made up of 18 classically trained vocalists and performs a vast and exciting variety of music, ranging from classic spirituals to popular Broadway numbers.
Those 18 singers managed to produce more sound than I have ever heard in Memorial– and I’ve sung in two Christmas Concerts. Even from my seat in what could be considered the “nosebleeds” of the auditorium, I could see and hear the passion that went into their music. To say that I was moved would be an understatement; my soul was rocked and my heart was filled. From the second the ensemble walked on stage, to the countertenor duet of “This Little Light of Mine,” to the closing performance of “Circle of Life,” I could not stop beaming. I must take a moment to mention two performers whom I found myself particularly touched by: contralto La’Shelle Allen, whose low notes hit me in the gut and brought tears to my eyes, and soprano Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa, who performed one of my all-time favorite hymns, “Balm in Gilead,” while accompanying herself on the mbira.
When Dr. Culloton told us in choir that this performance should be considered a required event not only for music students but for all humans, I giggled. But when I walked out of Memorial last night in a state of sheer admiration and disbelief, I knew exactly what he meant. I firmly believe that if every American, heck, every human, could hear the American Spiritual Ensemble perform, the world would be a kinder, more beautiful place.