University News

Convocation to Celebrate African American Spirituals

Published: January 10, 2008 | Category: Special Events

Community members and students can expect to immerse themselves in the tradition of African American Spirituals when the founder of the Spirituals Project comes to Southern Utah University on January 15 at 11:30 a.m. as part of the SUU Convocation Series.

Dr. Arthur Jones, founder of the Spirituals Project—and initiative concerned with the preservation and revitalization of the spirituals tradition—is the Senior Clinical Professor of Child Psychology at Denver University. An accomplished singer, since 1991 Jones has presented lecture-concert and workshop programs in educational, community and church settings around the country. Dr. Jones will be accompanied by singer Marta Burton for Tuesday’s convocation.

Burton, who has Southern Utah ties, has been working as a professional singer for over 14 years, soloing with dozens of major orchestras, and singing in concert halls and theatres internationally. Marta’s love for the folk music traditions of the British Isles and America and her belief that music can be used to bridge gaps between people contribute to her passion for the Spirituals Project.

Spirituals are the religious folk songs created and first sung by African Americans in slavery. Some of the best known of the hundreds of remarkable religious folk songs include: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” “Go Down, Moses,” “Steal Away to Jesus,” “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?” and “Wade in the Water.” These songs, created by a circumscribed community of people in bondage, have come to be regarded as the first “signature” music of the new American nation. The spirituals continue to exert a cultural impact into the 21st century.

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