Celebrate the Negro Spiritual

For more than four decades, the New Arts Cultural Society has served the community through enriching performances by the critically-acclaimed New Dimensions Choral Society.

And through the years, this choral group, founded by veteran musician and director Bobby Wiggins, has performed many concerts and commissioned works, including Roger Dickerson’s “A Requiem for Louis Armstrong,” oratorios such as “Handel’s Messiah,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah;” operas such as Verdi’s “Otello” and more.

However, since 1990, they’ve always taken time out to honor one of the oldest music traditions of African American history – the Negro spiritual.

And this year, they kick off the 22nd annual “Celebration of the Negro Spiritual” Festival of Choirs held Saturday, Feb. 25 at the historical Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport.

The free event is divided into two portions – the Youth Division at 10 a.m. and the Adult Division at 3 p.m. Both divisions feature a wide array of choirs from all over the area singing original and classic renditions of the Negro spiritual.

And in keeping with the tradition, all of the songs are performed a cappella, or without instruments.

The purpose of the event is not only to keep the tradition alive but New Dimensions Choral Society-New Arts Cultural Society said they hope to educate and enlighten listeners on the distinctive difference of the Negro spiritual, as opposed to the spiritual.

They explain on their website:

“Many refer to the spirituals as gospel music. The Negro spiritual is not gospel. It is a distinctive art form of a people never composed, always arranged, and has become a part of the total fabric of American music as a classic art form.”

So, as Black History Month comes to an end, consider taking time out and bringing the family along to get lost in the melodies and harmonies of this time-honored music form.

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