Students looking for something to do on campus before Christmas break should attend the Ebony Heritage Singer’s performance on Saturday, Dec. 1, at South Park United Methodist Church.
Directed by Dr. Donna Cox, the Ebony Heritage Singers perform every semester. According to the university’s website, the music performed is from the African-American tradition.
The Ebony Heritage Singers have also appeared for several professional conferences, including the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Education. In addition, the choir is one of only a few college gospel choirs to be fully credited and supported by a department of music.
The ensemble has been a part of UD for many years, according to Cox.
“Prior to my time on campus there was a gospel choir that was student-run,” she said. “In my first year, the choir was made part of the department of music. I gave the ensemble a name which helped to solidify its identity about 20 years ago.”
Cox chooses all of the songs with a certain theme in mind.
“Songs have to be ones that work for the voices I have in the ensemble,” she said. “They also have to be ones with strong messages about God, love, faith and hope, and be either written or performed by African-Americans or be in the black gospel tradition. At the end of the day, the songs must speak to me musically and spiritually before I teach them to the choir.”
“We have a lot of fun with it,” said Abby Klemm, a sophomore music therapy major.
This is Klemm’s second semester performing with the Ebony Heritage Singers. The group rehearses from the first week of classes, all through the semester to their performance. Every Tuesday night, the group meets for two hours to practice together in the Music and Theater Building. All of their songs are spiritual in tone.
“I enjoy the spiritual aspect of the group,” Klemm said. “The Christian message is important to me because it allows me to express my faith.”
Most rehearsals are started by asking members for prayer requests or praises that have happened in their lives, then move on to rehearsing music.
“We start off by learning the music by learning the rhythm of the lyrics itself,” Klemm said. “Then Donna goes through the music part by part to teach us the melody.”
The group is unique in that they learn the music using a method called rote, which means there is no written music to memorize.
“Donna sings to us, and we sing the part back,” Klemm said.
With all the rehearsals, the singers gain a great learning experience.
“I love working with singers who are interested in learning and exploring,” Cox said. “For most, gospel music is very different. The joy and excitement can’t be manufactured; it has to come from within.”
For more information, contact the Arts Series at 229-2787.