Gospel, jazz featured at black history concert

Monday, February 4, 2013 - 21:00

What: Gospel Meets Jazz: A Black History Celebration, featuring jazz saxophone professor Brad Leali and his Jazz Orchestra, along with a gospel choir that includes the UNT Jazz Singers and other College of Music student vocalists under the direction of vocal jazz professor Jennifer Barnes, guests including jazz pianist and composer/arranger Claus Raible, Lubbock pastor Cory Powell, vocal soloist Darius Luckey, musician and pianist Arlington Jones, and a slideshow of civil rights era images.

When: 5 p.m. Feb. 17 (Sunday)

Where: Voertman Hall, Music Building, 415 Avenue C in Denton. The concert will also be streamed online at http://UNTmusiclive.com.

Cost: Free

The College of Music at the University of North Texas presents Gospel Meets Jazz: A Black History Celebration on Sunday, Feb. 17 in Voertman Hall in the Music Building. Led by UNT jazz saxophone professor Brad Leali, the Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra will perform original arrangements by guest pianist and composer/arranger Claus Raible, together with a gospel choir organized by vocal jazz faculty member Jennifer Barnes.

The free concert, a collaboration of students, faculty and guests, aims to illustrate the ways music can bring people together, help solidify a community and tell stories that allow people to empathize with the experiences of others, Leali said.

“We’re bringing a message of unity and strength, sending a positive message and combining the two genres of gospel and jazz,” Leali said.  “The roots of jazz can be found in gospel music.”

The program includes songs by both jazz and gospel musicians including John Coltrane, Duke Pearson, Kirk Franklin, and Leali himself. Raible arranged the music for jazz ensemble and gospel choir, and will travel to UNT from Germany for the concert.

“When you think of gospel music, you typically don’t think of a German influence, but I want to expose everyone to the fact that where you’re from is not the only thing that matters. It has to do with what’s in your heart, your sense of passion and your integrity,” Leali said.

Raible has been working on the arrangements for about a year, said Leali, who has spent a number of years refining this concert program that was originally presented at a Texas Music Educators Association convention in 2007.

Four of the works include an accompaniment by a choir of 25 to 30 College of Music students, including members of the UNT Jazz Singers ensemble and other vocal students, conducted by Barnes.

“The vocals will act as instruments, in a way,” Barnes said. “We won’t be singing lyrics some of the time, instead we’ll add to the texture of the instruments. Other times, we’ll use lyrics that come from traditional, African-American gospel music.”

It’s important to bring reminders of civil rights struggles to younger generations, Leali said. Incorporating students in this performance is an integral part of their education – just as integral as learning in a classroom setting, he said.

“Most of our students know something of the history, but that’s different than singing the music and feeling that tie to history. It’s one thing to learn about it in jazz history class, it’s another to bring that music to life,” Barnes said.

Several guests will also take the stage during the concert, including pastor Cory Powell, who will speak, and vocalist Darius Luckey, both from Lubbock; as well as pianist Arlington Jones, artistic director of the Sammons Center for the Arts. A slideshow will play images of significant events from the civil rights movement of the 1960s. By combining the genres of gospel and jazz with a visual representation of moments from black history, Leali hopes others will learn not only about the music, but about the historical significance of Black History Month and those who fought for civil rights. 

About the UNT College of Music

The UNT College of Music is one of the largest and most respected comprehensive music schools in the country. About 1,500 music students attend UNT each year, participating in more than 40 widely varied ensembles and pursuing specialized studies in performance, composition, music education or music scholarship. UNT faculty members and students have made appearances on the world’s finest stages and have produced numerous recordings, many receiving Grammy awards and nominations. Distinguished UNT alumni can be found around the globe, in top music ensembles, opera companies, universities and schools.

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