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African American Choral Ensemble to perform annual Spring Concert on Saturday


The African American Choral Ensemble performs as part of the First Thursdays Festival on Feb.11 at the Fine Arts Plaza. The group will present its annual spring concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. IDS file photo

A group of people clad in yellow, red and black robes smile and clap as they enthusiastically sing the lyrics, “Open your mouth, say something.”

This group is the African American Choral Ensemble, who will present its annual spring concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This is the ensemble’s 43rd year.

“We try to sing music that has a message that will inspire them to lead and be a light in the community and make the world better,” director of the ensemble Raymond Wise said.

The ensemble consists of around 50 IU students, with members coming from different majors and backgrounds. The concert will feature a variety of music genres, including African pieces, spirituals, pop and gospel. Wise said the group chooses music that promotes hope and unity.

“The music from the African American race is so very very unique in that it’s the music of America,” he said. “It’s the music of hope, it’s the music of inspiration, it’s music that inspires.”

Wise said this particular concert will be special because it will commemorate the lives of former Dean of Students Michael Gordon, former ensemble director Dr. James Mumford and Crystal Ibe, a student who was in the ensemble, all of who died this semester.

Songs and portions of the concert will be dedicated to these three individuals throughout the performance.

Despite all of the events this past semester, the concert is a time to rejoice and celebrate, said Hannah Crane, events and communication specialist at the African American Arts Institute.

“You walk away feeling enriched, uplifted, inspired,” she said. “In a time when there is a lot of social, political, racial, socio-economic distress and struggles, having the opportunity to bring people together around music, around art and community is so special and so valuable.”

Crane said much of the concert encourages audience participation, whether it be through clapping along to the songs or through call-and-response singing. Wise will also give brief historical and educational context to each song.

Wise said the ensemble gives students an opportunity to promote unity on campus and in their communities.

“It’s the ideal musical style that allows us to share that inclusive, wonderful, diverse message for the university,” Wise said.

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