In 1871 a group of singers from Nashville, Tennessee, took to the road, arriving in London with a music that had never before been heard in public. But this was no ordinary choir. The Fisk Jubilee Singers were students who had been born into slavery in the US. Their mission was not only to build the first black university after emancipation but to fight for the right of all African Americans to be educated.
During their visit they, astonishingly, serenaded Queen Victoria herself and toured concert halls and cathedrals with their plantation spirituals – songs such as Steal Away and Swing Low Sweet Chariot, which were forged in the crucible of slavery and have gone on to become anthems of freedom and equality.
A century and a half later, Vox Holloway is teaming up with the Hackney Empire choir to tell the Singers’ inspiring story. Working from diaries, historical records and the choir’s own songbook, composer Harvey Brough and librettist Justin Butcher have reconstructed their struggle to win through racial abuse and physical hardship to international acclaim.
In Freedom Song, we will be joined by a professional band and soloists on a musical journey which celebrates the power of music to overcome oppression and bring people from all backgrounds together.
The Jubilee Singers are to appear in London, & I am requested to say in their behalf what I know about them — & I most cheerfully do it. … I heard them sing once, & I would walk seven miles to hear them sing again. … they reproduce the true melody of the plantations, & are the only persons I ever heard accomplish this on the public platform – Mark Twain, 1873
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