In this Musical Moment, VocalEssence artistic director and founder Philip Brunelle shares insider information and beautiful music by the composer André Thomas.
As a composer, arranger, conductor, author, pianist, and educator, André Thomas is very active in the choral world. Thomas recently retired after many years as a professor and as the director of choral activities at Florida State University. Before his work at Florida State, Thomas was a member of the faculty at the University of Texas, Austin and attended Friends University, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois. In the 2020-21 school year, Thomas will serve as a Visiting Professor of Choral Conducting and the Interim Conductor of the Yale Camerata. Thomas is also in high demand as a frequent conductor of honors choirs and guest conductor for acclaimed choirs around the world. As a composer, Thomas is most known for his arrangements of spirituals and gospel music. Ironically, as a student in middle and high school he hated singing spirituals, as he felt, especially with the use of dialect, that these pieces were disrespectful towards black Americans. After singing under Jester Hariston at Friends University, Thomas developed a better understanding of the cultural context of singing spirituals. He now works to educate other conductors and singers through his compositions themselves and through his book Way Over in Beulah Lan’: Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual. As a former public school music teacher, Thomas writes compositions that are accessible for singers in many different settings and are rewarding both to sing and listen to.
Suggested choral pieces:
- Keep Your Lamps (Hinshaw Music HL08765168)
- Mass: A Celebration of Love and Joy (Heritage Music Press 45/1635H)
- I Dream a World (Heritage Music Press 15/1752H)
For more on André Thomas, visit his website: http://www.drandrethomas.com/