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The Spiritual In White America

Beginning in 1913, Harry Burleigh (a New York protégé of Antonin Dvorák) began to transform black spirituals into songs for the white concert stage. Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson triumphantly sang Burleigh’s “Deep River” – and it’s still sung today.

But during the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston worried about a “flight from blackness.”

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Main Event

Thursday, August 22 at 6:30 pm
The Phillips Collection

Kevin Deas, bass-baritone
Joseph Horowitz, piano
Cathedra led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez

What’s the proper role of African-American music in America’s musical life?

Beginning in 1913, Harry Burleigh (a New York protégé of Antonin Dvorák)  transformed plantation songs into songs for the white concert stage. Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson triumphantly sang Burleigh’s “Deep River” – and it’s still sung today.

But during the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes and Nora Zeale Hurston worried about a denaturing “flight from blackness.”

Our program begins by juxtaposing a historic 1909 recording of “Swing Low” with Burleigh’s concert arrangement as sung by Kevin Deas — a supreme exponent of the spiritual in concert.

Spiritual arrangements by Harry Burleigh and Nathaniel Dett

Readings from W. E. B. Du Bois, Harry Burleigh, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston

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