Fisk Jubilee Singers to present classic spirituals concert, Nov. 9

Fisk Jubilee Singers to present classic spirituals concert, Nov. 9

Fisk Jubilee Singers

Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, perform classic spirituals with guest singers from the Coral Reef High School Chorale on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m. at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Tickets are $20-$37.50 and a limited number of $10 youth tickets are available for ages 12 and under. A limited number of $5 tickets also are available to students ages 13-22 through To purchase tickets visit or call the Box Office at 786-573-5300. The center is located at 10950 SW 211 St. in Cutler Bay.

In the chaotic decade following the Civil War, a group of young ex-slaves in Nashville, TN, set out on a mission to save their financially troubled school by giving concerts. Traveling first through cities of the North, then on to venues across Europe, the Jubilee Singers introduced audiences to the power of spirituals, religious anthems of slavery. Driven to physical collapse and even death, the singers proved more successful, and more inspirational than anyone could have imagined.

Today, performing nationally at venues like the Apollo Theater, this a cappella group stands on the shoulders of the original Jubilee Singers, continuing their legacy of performing Negro spirituals.

Dr. Paul Kwami, musical director for the Jubilee Singers, will hold workshops with students from Avocado Elementary in Homestead as well as with students at Coral Reef High School.

Fisk University opened in Nashville in 1866 as the first American university to offer a liberal arts education to “young men and women irrespective of color.” Five years later the school was in dire financial straits

George L. White, Fisk treasurer and music professor then, created a nine-member choral ensemble of students and took it on tour to earn money for the university. The group left campus on Oct. 6, 1871. Jubilee Day is celebrated annually on Oct. 6 to commemorate this historic day.

The first concerts were in small towns. Surprise, curiosity and some hostility were the early audience response to these young black singers who did not perform in the traditional “minstrel fashion.”

One early concert in Cincinnati brought in $50, which was promptly donated to victims of the notorious 1871 fire in Chicago. When they reached Columbus, the next city on tour, the students were physically and emotionally drained. Mr. White, in a gesture of hope and encouragement named them “The Jubilee Singers,” a Biblical reference to the year of Jubilee in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 25.

In 1872 they sang at the World Peace Festival in Boston and at the end of the year President Ulysses S. Grant invited them to perform at the White House.

In 2008, the Fisk Jubilee Singers were awarded the 2008 National Medal of Arts by former President George W. Bush at the White House. Other awards of the ensemble include the Governor’s Award, the Recording Academy Honors and the Heritage Award of the Nashville Music Awards.

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