Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How the Jubilee Singers' music sounded a chord with audiences in Wales [w/ links to pix]

On Jazz Heritage Wales website -- Lots of pix of British programs, etc., of concerts in Wales in 1874 and 1875. Jazz Heritage Wales is based at Swansea Metropolitan University's Library at Townhill Campus.

1899 [sic] Fisk Jubilee Singers http://www.smu.ac.uk/jazzheritage/index.php/history/1899. In addition to the pix and accounts of the concerts, this hint at their appeal to marginalized peoples overseas (cf. their reception by Aborigines when they toured Australia in ____):

The Fisk Jubilee Singers were students from Fisk University, Nashville, USA who set out on tour to raise money for their University inaugurated for the education of freed slaves. It was previously known as the Fisk Free Colored School, established in 1866 after the American Civil War. The Singers were invited to Britain in 1874 by an aide to Queen Victoria, and performed at the Cradock Street Music Hall in Swansea to 1500. Described erroneously by Swansea's Cambrian daily paper as "the exponents of true Nigger Minstrelsy" owing to the profusion of minstrel groups currently performing, they in fact sang a programme of Strange Weird Slave Songs with concert hall authority and refinement, together with a poise and elegance of dress, in marked contrast to previous "blackface minstrelsy" troupes who performed in burnt cork.

Touring Wales, however, offered an extra dimension for the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Memories remained strong in Wales of the discriminatory and damning Report into the State of Education in Wales published in 1847 by English Anglicans, which denounced the Welsh language and morals of the people, and described Welshwomen as "corrupt and sinful" with no "virtue in their offspring". Welshwomen workers in coal and steel retreated to the home, and children caught speaking Welsh in schools had a block of wood enscribed with "I Must Not Speak Welsh" hung about their necks. Recognising another culture denied their heritage and freedom of speech and expression, Welsh audiences to some extent identified with their visitors and took them to their heart.

The singers returned to Wales in 1875 ...
The concert proceedings were chaired by local dignitaries. The Jubilee Singers returned again to the Music Hall in 1875, and were described this time as "born as slaves and had all their lives been driven like lepers from any contact with white people, they will give one of their interesting concerts". (A Swansea woman, Mrs. Donaldson who died aged 90 in 1899, ran a "safe house" for seven years on the banks of the Ohio River, opposite the slave holding state of Kentucky. She and her husband were Abolitionists.) Welsh audiences unable to afford the 2s. ticket price could place their pennies in buckets at the door, while "silver collections" were taken from the balconies. The concerts were described as "highly instructive with the independence of the music of poverty". The first building on their campus, Jubilee Hall, was completed with Wales contributing $20,000 to the building fund.

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Lesson Plans > African American Identity in the Gilded Age

African American Identity in the Gilded Age: Two Unreconciled Strivings.

-- A Negro congregation, in Washington (1876) http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aap/photo01.jpg

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