In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers , a traveling company of 12 to 15, a resident group of 29, have garnered international acclaim and focused worldwide attention on the vast body of folk music termed "African-American."
Over 40 years ago (1968) the Singers undertook their first European tour. Today, after 18 sold-out European tours, 12 tours of the United States and Canada, tours of the Middle and Far East, Africa and South America, they are among the most honored singing ensembles in the world. They were selected three times to serve the U.S. State Department and USIS Cultural Exchange Program in areas of the world, known in those days as "behind the Iron Curtain," including East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Iran, India, North and West Africa, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
Founder-Director Albert McNeil is well-known to the national choral community, having been honored on four occasions with "Command Performances" before the prestigious American Choral Directors Association in 1981 in New Orleans, in 1985 at their Salt Lake City Convention, at their 1997 convention in San Diego, California, in February, 2000, at Los Angeles during the ACDA Western Division Convention held on the campus of Loyola-Marymount University. The Singers were headliners at the First Choral Festival in Jaffe (yafo), Israel, in April, 1988. In 1989, on Martin Luther King Sunday, they performed with the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the program aired by CBS Radio and Television. They have had collaborative concerts with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Dale Warland Singers, Chanticleer, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and Pro Musica of El Paso. In the summer of 1992, The Singers made their first Far East Tour of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. That season they went on to Spain to complete concerts at the XXIII Semana de Musica de Camara in Segovia, in the Real Coliseo Carlos III in El Escorial, performing not only their regular fare of Spirituals, but the Siglo de Oro Espanol (Renaissance music of Victoria and Morales).
The Singers completed a six-week tour of Europe during the Winter of 1993 and culminated their Winter Concert Season with a performance in the Auditorium of the Ambassador College, Pasadena. Fall, 1993, found the Singers performing in the midwestern U.S. and Toronto, Canada. The Winter Tour, 1994, took them to their first presentation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, their first in the Caribbean.
The choir was heard via National Public Radio on the series "Beverly Sills Presents" , a live two-hour broadcast of their concert in the Ambassador Auditorium, and shortly after on The Smithsonian's twenty-six-week series "Wade in the Water."
During its 1995 Winter Tour of the east coast, the Singers made their debut at The Kennedy Center , January 26, 1995, and continued on to complete an eight-week tour of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and France, stopping to perform in Paris' historic Eglise Saint Germain Des Pres, Munich's Herkulessaal, Monte Carlo's Concert Hall, and Bremen's St. Petri Dom (before 2,000 cheering enthusiasts). The Singers completed tours of the U.S., Italy and Spain in the Winter and Spring of 1996. In August, 1996, they were featured in The International Choral Festival in Taipei, Taiwan . The Singers are so popular in Japan that they appeared there successively in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, and returned in the Fall of 2002.
Early in 1998, the Singers performed in concert version excerpts from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess with the Honolulu Symphony, returning to Honolulu after an exciting tour of the Big Island of Hawaii, and Kauai, to a sold-out audience in the recently renovated Hawaii Theatre. During their winter tour, they were invited to record a program for the award-winning radio program "Saint Paul Sunday Morning" aired via National Public Raldio and heard in virtually every state in the country. The program generated hundreds of letters from across the country and Canada. The Men of the Jubilee Singers appeared on New Year's Eve, 1998, before a worldwide TV audience emanating from Shanghai, China, and heralding China's greeting of the new millennium. In January, 1999, the Singers appeared in Carnegie Hall for Mid-America Productions where they sang works by Nunes-Garcia and Lawrence Farrow. They returned in the Spring of 1999 to Argentina and Uruguay for a series of concerts. The season 1999 concluded with their fourth tour of Japan with a performance at the beautiful Osaka Symphony Hall, and finally Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). During the 1999 European tour, they performed in Austria's prestigious Mozarteum (Salzburg) and Switzerland's new concert hall in Zurich, The Kultureise . Spring, 2000, they completed yet another tour of Spain with a major concert in the National Recital Hall, Madrid . In July, 2000, they gave a major performance in the John Anson Ford Theatre, Los Angeles, and were invited again to represent North America in Taipei, Taiwan, at the International Choral Festival. They performed for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and the Montgomery County Community College in February, 2001. The 2000-2001 season concluded with performances in St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, Bethel College in Newton, Kansas, and concert performances of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess with the Pasadena "Pops" Orchestra, Pasadena, California. The 2001-2002 season opened with a tour of Brazil in November, 2001, with major performances in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Rio. In January 2002, the Singers began an East Coast Tour commencing in Philadelphia and ending in Atlanta's Spivey Hall (on the Clayton State College Campus). Despite the cold of March, 2002 the Singers began a three-week tour in Denver and performed in seven mid-western states (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota) In October, the Singers returned to Japan for their fifth tour of the land of the rising sun. A return to Spain in November 2002, closed the season with return performances in The National Recital Hall, Madrid; Barcelona's Palau de Musica , and a debut performance in Las Palmas' magnificent concert hall on the Gran Canarias, one of the seven islands in the Canary Islands over seven hundred miles off the coast of Morocco.
The ACDA Western Division honored the Jubilee Singers and Dr. McNeil in "Command Performances" at their Las Vegas Convention in February, 2004. The American Embassy in Caracas,Venezuela, supported McNeil and his Jubilee Singers as participants in an International Choral Festival held there during the Memorial Day weekend, May 27 through 31, 2004. The Jubilee Singers will leave completed their 14th tour of Spain on November 28, 2004. On December 19th, 2004 the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers performed to a sold out audience at Davies Symphony Hal l as a part of the San Francisco Symphony's holiday concert series.
In between 2004 and the present, Dr. McNeil and the Singers have performed on the stage of the Cueves de Nerja, (the Caves of Nerja, Spain) a cave transformed into a performance venue. A highlight for 2007 was a home town performance with the Los Angeles Master Chorale of Jazz Great, Mary Lou Williams' composition, The Mary Lou Williams Mass, under the baton of Grant Gershon and the Luckman Jazz Orchestra at LA's Disney Hall. The Singers have recently returned from a European tour with performances in Austria, Germany and Switzerland in December of 2008.
2009 will be a year-long celebration of 40 Years of Jubilee Singers, with performances around the city, state, and out of the country.
About the Music
The repertory of The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers is focused on the rich genre of African-American music known as Negro Spirituals. The arranged spiritual became known in the Winter of 1870 when an intrepid group of 11 singers -- seven women and four men -- representing the newly-established Fisk University in Nashville appeared at the Court of St. James in London. Queen Victoria's immediate acceptance helped this a cappella four-part singing by an ensemble of students to become known worldwide as a creative religious music evoking a deep sense of personal spiritual fervor.
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Review: The 21 mixed-voice singers of Director Albert McNeil sing the powerful, emotion-packed spirituals that have been sung, recorded, rearranged and interpreted, and re-recorded for over 150 years. In these14 songs we have a mixture of the simplicity and complexity of arrangements by Moses Hogan, Jester Hairston, Lena McLinn and Albert McNeil, to the unique settings of young composers and arrangers like Stacey Gibbs, Richard Jackson and Augustus O. Hill. Undine Smith Moore's "Lord We Give Thanks to Thee" was written as a tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Fisk University's original Jubilee Singers. Hogan's "Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit," Hill's "Fix Me Jesus," McLinn's "Lit'le Lamb, Lit'le Lamb," Gibbs' "Somebody's Knockin' At Yo' Do'" and "See Dat Babe," McNeil's dynamic "John the Revelator" and Hairston's joyous "Wonderful Counselor" are particularly fine. Authentic, timeless music sung with passion and fire by one of the great Gospel ensembles!
Open The Window Noah
Review: An LA-born native Californian, Albert McNeil earned Bachelors and Masters degrees at UCLA and did his doctorate studies at USC, the Westminster Choir College of Princeton and the Univ. of Lausanne, Switzerland. He has been conducting groups and church choirs for most of his adult life, and has dedicated himself to upholding a tradition of choral excellence as Founder/Director of the McNeil Jubilee Singers in 1968. Since then the Singers have earned international acclaim for their vast repertoire of African-American folk music, focusing on the rich genre known as Negro Spirituals as well as gospel, secular folk songs, calypsos and other African-Caribbean and African vocal forms. Their repertory also consists of concert works by distinguished African-American composers and arrangers along with Classical Opera, Sacred Music and Musical Theater. The 15 selections in "Best of Jubilee" draw on the best performances of one of the most honored choral ensembles. It's understandably hard to pick favorites, but the South African freedom song "Siyahamba'ekukhanuen'kwenkhos" (We are marching in the light of God), "Glory, Glory Hallelujah," "Open the Window, Noah," "Hallelujah! (Been Down Into The Sea)," "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep," "Oh Make Me Holy," "All My Trials," "Walk Together Children" and "Rocka My Soul" are particularly fine. Inspirational and moving songs, every one the best of the best!