Monday, February 06, 2006

[Black History Month Spot] The ODs: Original Divas

I'd like to share with you the Original Divas: Jesse Norman, Leontyne Price and Kathleen Battle - classically trained negro women (opera) singers.

This post was prompted by a succession of occurances this past weekend:
1. Classical rendition of "Ain't a dat good news" was sung by an all-white ensemble at the Caltholic school where I performed at the Black History Mass
2. I was watching Hustle and Flow and was reminded of the church scene where the woman is singing "Change My Name"

I've known about classical Negro Spirituals since was a litle girl. My mother was classically trainined, or in other terms, learned to sing Opera. Although I wasn't, I was raised with a reverence for classical vocalists. Not until a college course on the Music of Black Americans did I realize that classical vocalist like the three named above are largely unknown - but many are unaware, that besides singing, operas, french arias, german ruders or spanish madrigals they are also the main purveyors of classical Negro Sprirituals.

Started by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the last 1800s, adopting negro spirituals to classical form democratized "slave songs," preserved an aspect of black american history, and created a space for "black" music in America and Europe. Prior to the Fisk Jubilee Singers and similar groups, Black classical singers went unrecognized by the dominant society. And although they are not the same as "race music" (what Black music was first called when it became commercial) - they are still hugely significant to Black Music History.

I couldn't find video of a classical negro spiritual performance, but I still wanted to share the experience of Jesse Norman (she's my favorite).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can put a whole pie in jesse norman's mouth when she sings...i have a tight kathleen battle/wynton marsalis cd at the hizzle.


3:21 PM  
Blogger Cocacy said...

I have an affinity for Jesse Norman as well. I love those who can rock classical music!

8:06 PM  

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