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In the Spirit of the Spiritual

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IN THE SPIRIT OF THE SPIRITUAL A Performance Featuring the Songs and Letters of Enslaved African-American Men and Women

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WHAT:

In commemoration of Black History Month, the Chester Children’s Chorus will present a special concert on February 27, 2021 featuring Chorus Executive and Artistic Director John Alston.

Recorded at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, the program features Alston singing a selection of Spirituals, accompanied by Jay Fluellen on piano, and also reading a selection of letters written by enslaved and formerly enslaved African-Americans. Alston selected the music and letters to demonstrate African-Americans’ profoundly creative and exquisite response to enslavement and Christianity, and to depict firsthand their human anguish and suffering.

WHERE:

Online via YouTube Premiere. Please pre-register to receive the viewing link, which will be sent via email on Friday, February 26.

WHEN:

Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 7:00 PM, ET

WHO:

John Alston, bass: John Alston founded the Chester Children’s Chorus in 1994 while an Associate Professor of Music at Swarthmore College. Originally comprised of seven boys from one elementary school in Chester, PA, the Chorus now annually serves more than one hundred boys and girls in third through twelfth grades from every school in Chester. The Chorus’s year-round programming leverages the power of music and community to encourage each child to become the best version of themselves.

Early in his career, Alston frequently performed as a bass soloist and in classical music ensembles throughout the United States. About his singing, the Washington Post wrote, “the revelation on the program was the quality of bass John Alston’s singing... his voice is graceful in its movements...and his diction and emotional shading of the words are exemplary.” Alston originally conceived of and performed In the Spirit of the Spiritual in 2004 as a statement on racism, caste, and injustice. He decided to resurrect the program in 2021 to amplify the awakening awareness of social injustice. Alston earned his Doctorate of Music in Choral Conducting from Indiana University.

Jay Fluellen, piano: Jay Fluellen is a Philadelphia musician known as a composer, educator, accompanist, pianist, and singer. He has composed for many of Philadelphia’s music institutions and ensembles including the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia Jazz Project, Orchestra 2001, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Network for New Music, Bucks County Choral Society, and the Relache New Music Ensemble. Fluellen has a doctorate in music composition from Temple University and a certification in music education from Eastern University. Currently a teacher with the School District of Philadelphia at Northeast High School, Fluellen has taught college-level courses in the fields of music composition, written and aural theory, music history, piano, and conducting. Since January 1997, he has served as Co-Minister of Music at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia.

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