The Negro Spiritual

Moses Hogan Chorale to give final   Performance in Sold Out Concert

By Felecia Parker and Barbara Jones

For years, the state of the art of spirituals has been defined by the sound of many who have gone before. On November 20, 1999, 8 P.M., the premier New Orleans based Moses Hogan Chorale graces the stage at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco; bring its unique sound and performing in a concert that sold out almost two months before the date of the event. The chorale, an ensemble, specializing in chorale music and Negro Spirituals, will present its final performance at that time, thus ending a nearly 10 year history of a masterful musical aggregation; the chorale will perform in a concert at Stanford University’s Memorial Church on Friday, November 19, 1999, 8 P.M.

Audiences have thrilled to the chorale’s concerts in both Europe and in the United States, and critics have praised it for its melody and strong variation deft integration of musical styles.

43-year-old Moses Hogan, who is the leader of the Chorale, a pianist, conductor and an arranger, draws a sharp distinction between spirituals and later out growths such as gospel. “Original spirituals,” he says, “contained a lyrical quality and dealt with a variety of emotions. The songs were termed spirituals because of the relationship between the type of song and the Holy Spirit.” Having evolved within the inhuman conditions of slavery, spirituals were “consistently employed in the quest for freedom,” but, also, Hogan adds, in religious services, and to educate, gossip, and reprimand, signal, or to aid in storytelling.” Spirituals were an intrinsic part of the African-American plantation life and were were sung at all important occasions and events.

Hogan began exploring the choral music idiom in 1980 when he organized the New World Ensemble, which evolved into the present Moses Hogan Chorale in 1993. Shortly thereafter, the Chorale began receiving invitations to perform at events at the local, national, and international levels. The performance at the Herbst theatre is being sponsored by San Francisco Performances; Friends of Negro Spirituals are supporters.


Friends of Negro Spirituals Explores How Passion to Perform Spirituals Develops

In its second radio special of the year, the organization presented “Negro Spirituals From Souls to Souls.” The  one hour program was aired on radio station KPOO, 89.5 FM on August 21, 1999, 8:30 PM. Hosted by Sam Edwards and Lyvonne Chrisman, it featured spirituals performed by Shirley Graves, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Louis Armstrong, Barbara Hendricks, the Moses Hogan Chorale, 

Emit Powell and the Gospel Elites, jazz tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, and by jazz pianist Bob Thompson. It included a brief commentary on the sources that ignited in each artist the passion, inspiration, and the motivation to do spirituals in one or another genre.

Several factors were linked to the development of strong desires to perform spirituals. They included 1) their having an admired, close relatives or church member who sang or appreciated spirituals; 2) their growing up in the south in church in which spirituals were valued; 3) and feeling emotional connectiness to the sound or to some quality about the music.

The first radio special was aired on radio station KPOO on February 19, 1999 as a feature of African-American History Month. It was entitled, “Celebrating Negro Spirituals: Gifts from Our Enslaved Ancestors.” It gave a condensed history of Negro Spirituals, identifying the types of spirituals and highlighting contributors to that genre of music Illustrative music was played to magnify points.

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