Sounds of Music at Spelman College

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Since the first Spelman-Morehouse Christmas Carol Concert was performed Dec. 21, 1927, the College has been synonymous with musical celebrations. On any given week, you will hear musical melodies flowing on campus, from the convocation preludes played by College organist Dr. Joyce Johnson to the sounds of student musicians. This is especially true as the holiday season approaches.

This year, Spelman began its holiday musical celebrations with distinguished organist Nathaniel Gumbs, interim associate director of music and arts at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. Gumbs, a graduate of Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., participated in the first recital of the 2012-2013 Harreld-James Organ Recital Series .

“In 1968, the Sisters Chapel Holtkamp organ was formally dedicated to the memory of musicians extraordinaire Kemper Harreld and Willis Laurance James, who gave many years of distinguished service to Spelman,” said Dr. Johnson. Harreld was chair of the department of music at both Spelman and Morehouse from 1927-1954, and the Spelman College organist until his retirement in 1955. James was a violinist, pioneer ethnomusicologist, and director of the Spelman Glee Club until his death in 1966.

“To honor these two musical giants and to celebrate the beautiful pipe organ, the Harreld-James Organ Recital Series was initiated with support from the Office of the President and the department of music,” said Dr. Johnson.

The next organ recital will take place Sunday, Jan. 27, at 4 p.m., in Sisters Chapel. German-born concert organist Jens Korndӧrfer of First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Ga., will be the featured organist.

In anticipation for the 86th Annual Spelman-Morehouse Christmas Carol Concert, the Spelman College Glee Club hosted a Christmas Carol preview performance during convocation Nov. 20. The Glee Club was joined by Cassi Davis, C’2009, of “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” fame, who narrated the event and provided historical context of the tradition  and the selections performed. Sarah Stephens, C’2007, also took to the stage to provide lead vocals for the crowd favorite, “We Are Christmas,” an original piece she composed with Kevin Johnson, D.M.A., director of the Spelman College Glee Club, associate professor and chair of music.

“The Christmas Carol Concert preview was the perfect way to jump start the holiday season,” stated Christian Mitchell, C’2007, annual giving officer. “It is not often that I am able to attend a glee club performance, but being able to watch them perform was the highlight of my week. Every time I watch them sing ‘We Are Christmas,’ I am brought to tears by the passion that resonates within their voices.”

To close out the academic year, the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble will produce the 4th Kenyetta Jazz Festival: A Festive of Women in Jazz. Kenyetta, which means “she is beautiful music,” is a three-day jazz festival taking place April 4 – 6.

“Women are playing a more active role as leaders and instrumentalists, and some Spelman alumnae are involved in this movement on local and international fronts,” shared Joe Jennings, director of the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble and who is retiring at the end of the academic year. “We feel it is only natural for Spelman to take a leadership role in supporting this great art form and bring attention to its many female artists by producing a women’s jazz festival.” – Kia Smith, C’2004, is social media coordinator for the Office of Communications.

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