John Birge/Classical MPR: An Evening of Spiritual Arrangements
Interview by John Birge, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. —
How ironic. The man who wrote the book on spirituals hated spirituals a his first encounter!
Back when Dr. Andre Thomas was
the only black boy in an all-white Kansas school, he “shrank with
embarrassment” when his high school choir sang spirituals. He felt the
Amos & Andy -like dialect made fun of black people. But in college,
Thomas met a man who changed his mind. His name was Jester Hairston; he
was an arranger of spirituals — and an actor who had actually appeared
on Amos and Andy!
Now Andre Thomas is among the
world’s experts on the history and performance of spirituals. But for
all his encyclopedic knowledge, he’s a stickler about authenticity,
choosing inclusiveness over dogma.
Andre Thomas conducts an evening of his spiritual arrangements at the VocalEssence “Witness” concert
at Orchestra Hall on Friday, March 4 at 8pm. I invite you to join me
for a pre-concert conversation with him at 7pm. Or click on the Classical Minnesota Public Radio audio player to hear his fascinating insights.