UGA African American Choral Ensemble celebrates 25 years of ‘togetherness’

March 28, 2014

Joshua Cutchin

Joshua Cutchin

Public relations specialist, Hugh Hodgson School of Music

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Athens, Ga. - The University of Georgia African American Choral Ensemble will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a reunion concert April 12 at 7 p.m. in Hodgson Concert Hall. The performance is free and open to the public.

"There is a lot to celebrate at this concert," said Gregory Broughton, the ensemble's director and associate professor of music in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. "Some outstanding leaders and musicians have come out of this group."

UGA students originally founded the African American Choral Ensemble in 1972 as the Pamoja Singers, named after a Swahili word for "together." Two years later, the program spawned the Pamoja Dance Company, a student organization that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

"The students at the time wanted to have something they could call their own, and they accomplished it handily," Broughton said. "I wanted to build upon the strong foundation the members had established while at the same time making the ensemble more inclusive, performing not only gospel and show tunes but also spirituals and African-American art song as well."

In 1989, the newly renamed African American Choral Ensemble emerged not only as a course offering in the Hodgson School but as an ensemble that invited the entire university community to participate. A quarter-century later, the ensemble is still going strong, performing at the 2011 Georgia Music Educators Association conference, the Smithsonian Institute's 2013 "Southern Harmonies" traveling exhibition and the 2014 Organization of American Kodály Educators.

The April 12 reunion concert will feature popular spirituals and gospel repertoire drawn from the past 25 years, as well as arrangements by Broughton. Several of the ensemble's founding members have been invited to work with the group prior to the performance.

"It's exciting to see alumni rehearsing the ensemble, because I can remember seeing their strong leadership abilities emerging all those years ago," said Broughton. "These were some of the students who'd take the reigns if I had to step out of class for a minute or if I was running late, and a lot of them still use those skills today as professional musicians. It's inspiring to work with them again."

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