In honor of Black History month, Penn State’s School of Music will be showcasing a tribute to all composers, singers and musicians in the African American community.
The festival begins at noon today and lasts until the special recital opens at 6 p.m. featuring a guest performance, Chicago’s own Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Tickets for the event are free.
A variety of musical selections will be included within the performance, Anthony Leach, coordinator of the event, said.
Music from Miles Davis, George Walker, Velvet Brown and Roland Carter, among many others, will be included in the performance.
The Essence of Joy, an ensemble in Penn State’s school of music, will make an appearance as well.
The Essence of Joy takes a non-traditional approach to African American music when performing.
Manipulating the jazzy feel of African American music, the Essence of Joy takes certain traditional blues and R&B pieces and makes them contemporary and classical.
With the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Essence of Joy will showcase the piece in an original style.
“I love it,” Elizabeth Peter, the ensemble’s president, said. “It gives you insight into what blacks went through.”
Peter (sophomore-telecommunications) said that singing the Black National Anthem in a way that is different from the norm allows for the singers to understand the pain of African Americans and vocalize it to the crowd.
The ensemble has been practicing extensively for the performance, said The Essence of Joy’s assistant “choir-ographer” Eric Williamson.
But because the ensemble is “fast-paced,” Williamson (senior-music) said the ensemble usually needs about a month to prepare.
Singing for The Essence of Joy is more than an obligation, it is an emotion felt through their hearts and expressed in song, Peter said. Singing, for the Essence of Joy, is an extension of the core of who they are, she said.
“It's more of a spiritual experience,” she said.
Along with the spiritual passion that the group feels toward music and the art of song, the Celebration of African American music resonates deeply with them as well.
The festival “means everything,” Williamson said.
Williamson said that the ensemble presents a variety of “European” music, and the Celebration of African American Music Festival allows for the black population in the School of Music to show appreciation to its culture and to “bring awareness.”
But aside from bringing awareness and showing appreciation, the festival supports tradition.
“From 1995 through 2008, the festival was called ‘The Celebration of African American Spirituals,’ ” Leach said.
But since 2009, the festival has changed into a variety of performances that showcases the talents of all African Americans.