Tech to host American Spiritual Ensemble

The American Spiritual Ensemble is coming to Tennessee Tech Tuesday, Feb. 17 to perform a free concert at 7:30 p.m. and a master class during dead hour, both in Wattenbarger Auditorium.

The ASE is a group of professional musicians who perform all over the world singing spirituals, an important part of American musical heritage, according to Everett McCorvey, director and founder of the ASE.

“We must keep this music alive,” said McCorvey, who is also a professor of voice at the University of Kentucky. “The best way to do that is to transmit it, not only on the concert stages, but through the universities and through students who can experience this music and take the music forward.”

Craig Zamer, director of choral activities at Tech, played an instrumental role in bringing the ASE to Tech. He said he was blown away after hearing the ensemble at a convention years ago and has been trying to bring the group to Tech ever since.

“Any opportunity that we can have to bring professional choirs is going to do great things for our music department, for all of the students that sing in our choirs to see another kind of choir perform and gain perspective on the genre,” said Zamer. “So sometimes when I talk about spirituals, and I’m trying to get a specific sound, they’re going to hear that choir and they’re going to now have a deeper understanding of what I’m looking for in the sound.”

A few songs the ASE will perform include “Walk Together Children,” “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” and “This Little Light of Mine.” The Tech Chorale will then join the ASE to perform “Keep Marchin’ ‘Til I Make It Home.” The concert will conclude with an arrangement of “Circle of Life.”

The ASE will also conduct a master class open to all students at 11 a.m. Feb. 17 in Wattenbarger Auditorium. Members of the group will explain the history and origins of the American spiritual and how the genre has evolved into today’s “concert spiritual,” an arrangement of traditional spirituals with a western music influence.

While at Tech, the ASE will work with the choirs, voice students and other music majors. Zamer said it’s a great opportunity because “we benefit, not only from their performance but from what they’ll say to us, their interaction with our students.”

The ensemble performs at churches, concert halls and universities while on tour. The ASE sings at colleges because McCorvey said the group sees music students as “young colleagues,” so it is important to make connections with the “young artists and future administrators.”

Kristina Bunting is a junior music business major and a member of the Tech Chorale. She was selected to be a part of a small ensemble within the combined song the Tech Chorale and American Spiritual Ensemble will perform. Bunting said she is more excited than intimidated to sing with the ASE.

“I really like observing people who know what they’re doing … and how they are able to put into practice the techniques we always learn,” said Bunting.

The concert will be free but tickets are required for admission. Students can bring their ID to Bryan Fine Arts Building 204 to pick up a ticket. Tickets for the general public will be available Monday, Feb. 16, but remaining tickets will be available at the door.

“Even if (students) are not musically-inclined or choir isn’t necessarily their thing, I still think this will be appealing to anybody that would come because they’re such an engaging choir,” said Zamer. “This experience will be great for anybody that attends the concert.”