Williamsport Community Concert Association welcomes American Spiritual Ensemble

For the first time in the history of the 85 seasons of the Williamsport Community Concert Association, a vocal program by an ensemble in 2009 proved so popular with the local audience that the musical group presented a second program two seasons ago and now returns for a third time to the stage of the auditorium of the Williamsport Scottish Rite, 348 N. Market St., at 3 p.m. Feb. 17.

The program, booked as the American Spiritual Ensemble, is the third of five programs scheduled by the Concert Association for 2012-13 season.

The ensemble, comprised of some of the finest singers in the United States, was founded in 1995 by Everett McCorvey, a native of Montgomery, Ala.

Its members have sung in theaters and opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and abroad in Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Scotland, Spain and Japan.

The repertoire ranges from spirituals to classical to Broadway and dance. Dr. McCorvey has received degrees, including a doctorate of musical arts, from the University of Alabama. As a tenor soloist, he has performed in major centers around the world, including Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

He currently is professor of voice and director of opera at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

The American Spiritual Ensemble has thrilled audiences around the world with dynamic renditions of classical spirituals and Broadway numbers.

The mission of the Ensemble is to keep the American Spiritual alive. The group of harmonious voices embraces its audiences with its abilities to interpret and to perform the beloved songs with stylistic understanding and intense expressiveness. Each spirit-filled concert leaves the audience wanting more.

The early folk songs of the American Negro served as a way for an oppressed people to endure the pain and suffering of slavery. They sang their songs of hope in fields, worship services, camp meetings and on long journeys to freedom. Today, the American Spiritual Ensemble brings these great songs of inspiration and freedom to the concert stage.

After their performance in Williamsport in February 2009, the group of singers toured Freedom Road Cemetery and witnessed a portion of local history and were touched by looking at the local cemetery’s markers. While visiting the cemetery, the director, Dr. McCorvey, pointed out that Negro spirituals often contained dual meanings. “Did you know that Lincoln was Moses in the song “Go Down Moses?” he asked.

Many of the Negro spirituals embraced by the ensemble contain coded messages of hope and instructions to slaves on the run seeking freedom in the passageways north. Dr. Kathy Bullock, one of the performers, said during that visit, that the spirituals contain subversive and powerfully coded messages for slaves on the run and for those who wanted to see them make it.

For example, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” contains not only a spiritual message of being carried home to a place beyond death, but the word “chariot” meant that people working on the Underground Railroad were nearby.

The performers, usually about 20, come from a larger group. They gather about three times a year to record and tour. The performing group uses profits from its tours to support projects such as an ensemble CD or solo projects of members of the group. The cast changes a bit with each tour as singers come in and out depending on other gigs. Singing, in the end, is their job, a bit of an obsession, and occasionally a gift.


Single tickets are available at $20, $30 or $35.

All seats are reserved. For more ticket information, email wccatickets @gmail.com or call Dorothy Maples at 323-6012.

The Box Office will open at 2 p.m., one hour before the performance at 3 p.m. For more information about the Williamsport Community Concert Association’s season, visit www.lycoming.org/wcca or see us on Facebook.