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The Indiana Daily Student

arts performances music

African American Choral Ensemble to perform Raymond Wise’s ‘Gospel Mass’

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The African American Choral Ensemble Spring Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre. 

The choral ensemble will present the world premiere of ensemble director and professor of practice Raymond Wise’s “Gospel Mass.” 

For centuries, composers have set the Ordinary of the Mass in a variety of musical styles, from folk to jazz. In 1978, composer Robert Ray wrote a mass called the “Gospel Mass” that popularized the performance of such music beyond the Catholic church and into academic communities. Now 50 years old, Ray’s piece served as the foundation for Wise’s mass of the same name. 

“This was my opportunity to join the ranks of those who have actually written mass,” Wise said. 

Wise tried his hand at writing a mass and finished it in 2010, but it wasn’t performed until an AACE performance in 2019. Wise pulled a couple of movements from the mass to try with the ensemble. After a great response from the audience, Wise decided it was time to perform the whole mass for this year’s spring concert. 

“This will be the first time it’s ever being performed in its entirety,” Wise said. “We’re really excited that we get to share it here with the African American Choral Ensemble.”

Since its founding in 1975, the Emmy Award-winning African American Choral Ensemble has preserved the legacy of African American choral music through interpretations of the art form. With a broad repertoire of music performed, Wise said the range of musical styles reflects that of the choral ensemble, one of the most diverse groups at IU.

“While we specialize in singing African American music by African Americans, it is not just for African Americans,” Wise said. “The group’s diversity is just one of the ways we show a sense of unity and inclusiveness here on campus.”

2022 will mark Wise’s 10th year at IU directing the AACE. Wise said there were 14 IU students in the ensemble in the beginning. The ensemble has certainly grown over the years, with more than 50 students currently part of the group. 

With such growth, Wise wants to continue building a sense of community through the ensemble and its music. 

“Much of the African American sacred music is designed to inspire and bring hope, and that has been something we need so much in this day and age,” Wise said. “We all come together because we have an opportunity to be a family, to build a family and support each other so we can make it through these times. It’s the music that really heals us and gives us the energy to keep hoping and keep moving forward.”

The African American Choral Ensemble is a credit-bearing course offered through the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. The department is a part of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs at IU.

In-person tickets are available for purchase. The student ticket price is $15 and $25 for all other attendees. The event will also be streamed online, and livestream tickets are available for $15 per person.

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