American Spiritual Ensemble has thrilled audiences across the globe with a dynamic and soul-stirring repertoire that highlights the Black experience — and, now, it’s Asheville’s turn to be inspired. This critically acclaimed group, which comprises more than a dozen of the finest singers in the classical world, is set to perform live and in-person at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Founded in 1995 by tenor Dr. Everett McCorvey, American Spiritual Ensemble is dedicated to performing provocative, dynamic concerts around the world in celebration of the American Negro Spiritual, and it does so while honoring and maintaining the integrity of the music pioneered by enslaved African people. The group’s live performances — combining the singers’ talents with an accompanist and an African drummer — range from spirituals to jazz, dance and Broadway numbers. Each of the group’s vocalists are accomplished soloists in their own right, and, together they create musical magic that “holds listeners in a joyful spell,” wrote Sewanee Today.
“Music has always been a prominent part of my household and life,” wrote McCorvey, the ensemble’s founder. “Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Movement, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand music’s powerful storytelling; to comfort people, to change lives, and to spur a movement. The American Spiritual Ensemble began as a dream I had of preserving the music of the American negro slaves. ASE’s mission is to keep the American Negro Spiritual alive.
“We also celebrate the many forms that this music has taken since its creation,” he continued. “Enslaved people were not permitted to speak their native language, sing their traditional songs, or play their instruments. Oftentimes, individuals were separated from their families and stripped of their ways of life, forcing them to create new ways of communication in order to survive. … As they adjusted and incorporated some of their culture into their lives, spirituals were born. These songs became sources of comfort, hopes, and communication — songs of direction and faith. … Today, it is our privilege to be able to perform these songs, tell their stories, and share our love for the beautiful creations with the world.”
American Spiritual Ensemble brings together a group of incredible vocalists and soloists, who have individually performed in prestigious venues such as Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Boston Opera and the Atlanta Civic Opera, as well as abroad in England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Scotland, and Spain.
As seen in Asheville Citizen-Times / Asheville Scene, Jan. 21, 2022