Instead of a traditional speaker, this year Oberlin College's second semester will be led in song by the world renown Fisk Jubilee Singers, tonight at 8 PM in Finney Chapel.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers were founded in 1871, on the campus of Fisk University. In an effort to keep Fisk University active, the original group of nine students saved up the money that was earned from their performances and tours.
The early group toured all over the United States and throughout Europe. Despite financial hardships that incurred in order to maintain the group itself, these tours raised over $145,000 dollars.
This money was used to purchase Fisk's present home and also to fund the building of the first permanent building in America solely for the education of African Americans. The building, now a national historical landmark, is known as Jubilee Hall.
Many of the original performers were either all former slaves or were direct descendants of former slaves. The original repertoire of the group had a classical overtone, but as the group became more solidified and focused, they took on more powerful and soul inspired music.
Their repertoire began to consist of spirituals and slave songs. Managed by George White, the music of The Fisk Jubilee Singers was known to be powerful, uplifting and inspirational.
Reverend Manfred Steen, who will be delivering opening remarks at the convocation, and also an alum of Fisk University, is "extremely excited to see Oberlin College host the Fisk Jubilee Singers."
"I presented the idea to President Dye last semester and she welcomed it and helped to work something out to bring them here," commented Steen.
"The bond between Oberlin College and Fisk University goes back many years. Oberlin College was the fourth stop for the choir."
"It is especially significant that the Fisk Jubilee Singers begin their spring touring here at Oberlin. After celebrating their 125th Anniversary last year and the positive reception they received while touring in Italy, Oberlin College's warm reception will be very much appreciated," adds Steen.
Steen's son is a member of the present group of singers. While at Fisk, Reverend Steen was a part of the University Choir but says that he is "honored that his son is getting this opportunity."
President Nancy Dye adds that she "has been wanting to invite the Fisk Jubilee singers for a long time. I've heard that they're extremely good, and Reverend Steen has close ties with the group."
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 13, February 6, 1998
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