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Dr. Ollie Watts Davis
Dr. Ollie Watts Davis

USC School of Music presents a Festival of Spirituals

The USC School of Music and the African American Studies Program will present a Festival of Spirituals concert at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 4, in the School of Music recital hall, 813 Assembly St.

The concert will feature renowned gospel artist Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, music professor at the University of Illinois (Urbana Champagne), the USC Gospel Choir and the Chosen Gospel Ensemble.

Described as “…a bubbling stream of a voice, remarkably smooth down into a resonant, rich low register,” by the San Francisco Chronicle, and “a lovely, warm, admirably focused tone,” by The New York Times, Davis earns superlatives wherever she sings. Since her New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1990, Davis has performed in many of the nation’s great concert halls, appearing with the San Francisco, Minnesota, Houston, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Dallas symphony orchestras. Internationally, she has appeared with orchestras in Venezuela, Mexico and Spain.

Davis, also an actress, has performed with the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Theatre of Springfield and Illinois Opera Theatre. She has been heard on National Public Radio, and has released two CD recordings – a recording of Negro spirituals as a solo artist, and as conductor of the University of Illinois Black Chorus.

The concert, organized by the USC gospel choir class, now in its second semester, will include traditional gospel music and a choral arrangement of spirituals. The class choir will sing and selected student music majors will perform solo arrangements of well-known spirituals.

“African-American music was rarely art for the sake of art,” said Carl Wells, gospel class instructor. “If you think about slaves in the field, they weren't just singing, they were singing to make the day go better, for survival. It becomes a way of helping voice what people are experiencing, but it also connects them to a God who helps them in the midst of their struggles.”

Prior to Tuesday’s concert, Davis will conduct a performance lecture at 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3 at Green St. United Methodist Church.

Wells said, “African-American music, more than any other form of music, is a dialogue, not a monologue. The performer sings, but there's an element of participation from the audience.”

The gospel concert and the performance lecture are free and open to the public.

Posted: 09/28/11 @ 5:00 PM | Updated: 09/30/11 @ 2:40 PM | Permalink

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