Special to the New Journal and Guide
The Norfolk State University Choirs will host the HBCU Choral Festival featuring the choirs of Elizabeth City State, Hampton, and Howard Universities along with the Norfolk State University Concert Choir on Sunday, February 28. The concert begins at 5 p.m. at the L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center on the campus of Norfolk State University.
Traditionally, Historically Black College and University Choirs have been chief ambassadors and fundraisers of their institutions to preserve their existence. The annals of time document gleefully the travels and performances of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Tuskegee Institute Choir, and the Hampton University Choir worldwide in the early years of the twentieth century.
Today’s HBCU choirs have followed brilliantly in the footsteps of these choirs and continue a robust tradition of annual choir tours and performances in churches and music venues throughout the country.
Howard U. Choir
Continuing the tradition of presenting unheard or new choirs to music lovers of Hampton Roads, The Howard University Choir performs at the Festival for the first time. Under the legendary Dean Warner Lawson and subsequently Dr. James Norris, the choir has sung throughout the world.
From Rome to Tokyo, the Caribbean to Europe, the choir has performed for dignitaries and United States Presidents. One of the White House performances was a nationally-televised NBC special with Leontyne Price. Called upon frequently to sing for State Funerals and other ceremonial occasions, it has also performed with the National Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony, to name a few. The Howard University Choir is under a new conductor in his first season, Dr. Eric Poole.
The Elizabeth City State University Concert Choir was established by such competent pioneers as Joy Wallace Brown, composer of the Alma Mater, Harriet Howard, a Fisk University graduate, and Ethel Cannady of Hampton Institute. However, it was not until the 1933-34 academic year that the institution, then Elizabeth City State Colored Normal School, acquired Dr. Evelyn A. Johnson.
Through her vivacious personality, coupled with that “Tradition of Excellence” upheld by Mr. Billy C. Hines for thirty-four years, the ECSU Concert Choir continued to strengthen its visibility in the realms of choral music amongst HBCUs. Currently under the direction of Dr. Walter R. Swan and in his sixth year as conductor, the Concert Choir serves as one of the University’s chief ambassadors.
Hampton U. Choir
Hampton University choral groups and ensembles have made substantial contributions to the enjoyment of choral music for audiences throughout the world. As early as the 1870s, the first ensembles began touring to raise funds for then Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. First known as the Hampton Singers, and later the Hampton Institute Choir, the Hampton University Choir takes pride in maintaining established choral music standards and performing with professional demeanor and charisma.
The choir has become noteworthy for performing the compositions of R. Nathaniel Dett, Noah F. Ryder, Nathan Carter, and Roland M. Carter.
Following in the footsteps of Dett, White, Ryder, Switten, and Dillard, Omar J. Dickenson is in his fourth year as conductor of the choir and brilliantly maintains a rich tradition of choral excellence at his Alma Mater.
In the footsteps of Harry Savage, Naomi Pettigrew, Noah Ryder, Larry Palmer, and Carl G. Harris, Dr. Carl Haywood, Director of Choral Activities and current conductor of the Concert Choir and Spartan Chorale, has enhanced the reputation of the concert choir and expanded the choral program resplendently under the auspices of the University’s motto-Achieving Excellence Success Beyond Measure.
The choir which renders countless performances throughout the states has been presented at the White House, The Executive Mansion of the Governor of Virginia, and performs frequently with The Virginia Symphony. The Choir which also sings for conventions and music conferences is preparing its sixth CD for release. Surely its reputation as one of the best choirs in the country is well deserved.
This is a concert that will undoubtedly provide musical and inspirational lift to every listener.
Online tickets/information: nsuchoirs.com or call 823.8565.
Tickets available at the NSU Ticket Center (daily) and the Wilder Center Box Office on the Thursday and Friday preceding the concert (noon – 4 p.m.) and one hour prior to the start of the concert.