Photo by Justin D. Knight
The Howard University Choir has traveled all over the world to
perform—from Libreville, Gabon to Davos, Switzerland—and the list
continues to grow. Now China can be added to that list. Led by music
director and conductor J. Weldon Norris, Ph.D., the choir is currently
performing a series of concerts in China, a tour sponsored by the
U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in China. The choir will
perform in five cities across the country—Beijing, Shenyang, Chengdu,
Guangzhou and Nanjing or Shanghai.
The cultural exhibition includes a repertoire of classical music,
folk songs, and their signature, Negro spirituals. In addition to
the concerts, Norris will be featured in a series of lectures on
“The Negro Spiritual” and will conduct musical workshops at several
leading Chinese universities.
Speaking about the trip and the selection of the choir, Norris said, “By performing at so many festivals you get known, and that is how you get chosen.” He continued, “We are considered the most frequently traveled African-American choir. Our specialty is the Negro spiritual, and the Negro spiritual is a dying art.”
Under his leadership, the choir has been invited to sing at events all over the world including the Valencia Festival, gaining special recognition as the only choir invited twice to sing at the event. This trip follows a remarkable performance in Russia last summer, when the choir performed in the 8th International Conservatoire Week Festival at Glazunov Concert Hall in St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Andrew Jenkins, a senior classical vocal performance and French double major said, “Everyone was really welcoming and it was hard to be nervous. It taught us a lot about how similar people are, no matter where you go.”
The trip to China is an experience that choir members will remember for a long time. Norris credits discipline, hard work and the dedication of his students for this unique opportunity. “As I tell my students, we got there by hard work,” said Norris. “This doesn’t happen to everybody... and you can’t half-step.”