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McNeil Singers and University Chorale come together in jubilant harmony

Michael Wright and Douglas Griffin perform “Marry a Woman Uglier Than You” as part of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers concert Saturday in Morgan Auditorium. The singers, led by Albert McNeil, performed a mix of traditional and contemporary spiritual music, along with several Afro-Caribbean songs. The Albert McNeil Singers were joined by the combined choirs of the University of La Verne Chorale and Chamber Singers toward the end of the performance. / photo by Warren Bessant

Amanda Nieto
Associate News Editor

Sweet harmonious voices of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers transported the Morgan Auditorium into the world of spiritual music.

On Saturday about 150 eager audience members attended to watch Assistant Professor of Music James Calhoun, along with the University Chorale and Chamber Singers, accompany the Albert McNeil Jubilee performers.

“I want you to know why we are here tonight,” McNeil said. “I want you to know why we have lasted for 40 years. It’s because the music we perform is infectious for us and the audience.”

The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers are a spiritual group that performs African-American folk music of inspiration and worship.

Since 1968 this group has performed all over the world, and toured in places such as Europe, Canada and the Middle East.

Their infectious music began with a prelude by Calhoun that had a beautiful, classic sound with a soulful feel.

The Jubilee Singers filed on to the stage with the men wearing black suits and the women wearing black draped dresses adorned with crystal necklaces that sparkled from the stage.

The night then began with “Witness for My Lord” with tenor Michael Wright taking the lead and interacting with the audience.

Hoots of amazement filled the auditorium in reaction to the exquisite voice of Wright and the background performers.

“Spirit is the seed of everything,” Wright said. “Out of it comes everything from jazz to rock ‘n’ roll to hip-hop.”

Voices were the only necessary instruments as they created an orchestra filled with high and low swells of deep lingering notes.

“Go Down Moses” was performed with Calhoun as the front man telling the story of Moses in Egypt. The background voice accompaniment provided a soundtrack to the uplifting biblical tale.

A powerful energy surged through the room as the Jubilee Singers performed “Changed My Name.” The voices combined with the talent of Calhoun on the piano seemed to be the crowd favorite based on the applause they received at the end.

“It made me feel like I was back at church,” Chalena Robertson, junior communications major, said. “I felt connected, and I had the spirit in me.”

Before the start of intermission the group ended with “Elijah Rock” where each vocal group performed separate parts of the song, creating a cascading waterfall of voices all joining together at the end in a pool of harmony.

With the second act came a change of clothing and atmosphere, bringing the ladies out in black dresses covered in glittering sequins with the addition of more movement and choreography.

The song “Marry a Woman Uglier than You” displayed the humor and fun of the singers and created loud laughs from the audience.

Stirrings, shouts and claps erupted from the audience during the song “Use Me Lord.” A line of the song asks for a voice that is an instrument, and the Jubilee Singers’ prayers were definitely answered.

The final three songs of the night were shared between the Jubilee Singers and ULV’s Chorale and Chamber Singers. Three students were chosen to display their riveting voices during a brief solo performance.

Spiritual is about spreading the word and finding a message in the music, Wright said.

From the crisp light and deep voices that filled the auditorium and those inside of it, came an inspiration and spirit that continued even when the music subsided.

Amanda Nieto can be reached at amanda.nieto@laverne.edu.

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