Walk Together Children

Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of Fisk Jubilee Singers

In Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, Dr. Paul T. Kwami and his students pay tribute to the original nine members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Organized as a choral ensemble in 1871 to perform and raise money to support Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers celebrate their 150th Anniversary on October 6, 2021. As the current singers explore the personal stories of the trailblazers who paved the way for future generations in Walk Together Children, they reflect on their roles as students and preservers of the world-renowned choral group’s rich legacy. Inviting viewers to share in their unique bond and learn the significance of the Negro Spirituals and their value in today’s culture, the film is a dual concert event celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and a call to action for the bright future ahead for Fisk University and all of Nashville.

Created in collaboration with Dr. Kwami and producer/director Jon Royal, the film is produced by the nonprofit Tennessee Performing Arts Center and supported by contributions from Amazon, Bank of America, Enterprise Solutions, and Delta Dental of Tennessee.

The Jubilee singers are the primary reason that Fisk University survived its institutional infancy. That fact is indisputable. Had those first nine students not embarked on a tour in 1871, the oldest surviving college in Nashville, TN may not have lasted beyond America’s Reconstruction period. When I started working on this film, the thing that I really wanted to investigate was what held that ensemble, and all of the subsequent groups of Jubilee Singers together? After interviewing several of their current members there were two things that they repeatedly brought up 1) The legacy that they were a part of, and felt a responsibility to uphold, and 2) The familial bond that they share as a unit. This concert film is about those two finer threads that have served to knit this tradition together for the last 150 years. Hopefully this piece will provide a window into the lives of the original nine singers. This is THEIR legacy. And the bond? That can truly be best expressed by the words of longtime Music Director of the Jubilee Singers, Dr. Paul T Kwami. While interviewing him, I expressed my affinity for the spiritual Walk Together Children, and the fact that I knew they sang that song during the civil rights movement. He told the following story about why he chose to include that song in this concert: 

“I have a mentor. He teaches at St. Olaf’s College. I watched him in a masterclass as he taught this particular song. And there’s a demonstration that he did, which sticks in my mind. He was actually using the demonstration to help his students determine the tempo of the music. That is, imagine two slaves chained together. One has their left foot chained to the right foot of the other. Then they have to walk together. Even though he was using it to help his students determine the tempo of the music, I immediately saw it as unity. For people to be able to walk together, there has to be love. Yes, people can walk together without love. But what do you think will happen at the end? They will get into a fight. All right? But in this case, talking about this song, I see the expression of true love. In order for people to walk together, even when they are tired or if they’re walking together and run into adverse situations, they will always help each other. That’s how I see that song. And I taught that song for this academic year’s Jubilee Day. And the reason I chose this particular song for this year is we know there has been a lot of unrest, not only in the United States, but in different parts of the world. I believe unrest is caused when there is lack of true love. So I chose Walk Together, Children… just to remind us to walk in love.” 

Friends, this film is a call to action to walk in love. Walk in love through adversity the same way those nine souls did in 1871. Walk in love as the current ensemble does today. Let’s keep doing the hard work of walking in love into the future. 

Jon Royal
Director 

Full Description (>200 Words)

In Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, Dr. Paul T. Kwami and his students pay tribute to the original nine members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Organized as a choral ensemble in 1871 to perform and raise money to support Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers celebrate their 150th Anniversary on October 6, 2021. As the current singers explore the personal stories of the trailblazers who paved the way for future generations in Walk Together Children, they reflect on their roles as students and preservers of the world-renowned choral group’s rich legacy. Inviting viewers to share in their unique bond and learn the significance of the Negro Spirituals and their value in today’s culture, the film is a dual concert event celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and a call to action for the bright future ahead for Fisk University and all of Nashville. Created in collaboration with Dr. Kwami and producer/director Jon Royal, the film is produced by the nonprofit Tennessee Performing Arts Center and supported by contributions from Amazon, Bank of America, Enterprise Solutions, and Delta Dental of Tennessee.

Digital Program Long Description (>400 Characters)

In Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, Dr. Paul T. Kwami and the current singers explore the stories of the world-renowned ensemble’s original nine members and reflect on their roles as students and preservers of the group’s legacy. Directed by Jon Royal in collaboration with Dr. Kwami, the performance film is produced by Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Digital Program Short Description (90 Characters)

The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform and reflect on the world-renowned ensemble’s rich legacy.

Broadcast Program Long Description (>200 Words)

 In Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, Dr. Paul T. Kwami and his students pay tribute to the original nine members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Organized as a choral ensemble in 1871 to perform and raise money to support Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers celebrate their 150th Anniversary on October 6, 2021. As the current singers explore the personal stories of the trailblazers who paved the way for future generations in Walk Together Children, they reflect on their roles as students and preservers of the world-renowned choral group’s rich legacy. Inviting viewers to share in their unique bond and learn the significance of the Negro Spirituals and their value in today’s culture, the film is a dual concert event celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and a call to action for the bright future ahead for Fisk University and all of Nashville. Created in collaboration with Dr. Kwami and producer/director Jon Royal, the film is produced by the nonprofit Tennessee Performing Arts Center and supported by contributions from Amazon, Bank of America, Enterprise Solutions, and Delta Dental of Tennessee.

Broadcast program Short Description (>90 Words)

In Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, Dr. Paul T. Kwami and his students explore the stories of the original nine members of the world-renowned ensemble. Inviting viewers to share in their unique bond and learn the significance of the Negro Spirituals in today’s culture, the students reflect on their roles as preservers of the group’s legacy. Created in collaboration with Dr. Kwami and director Jon Royal, the film is produced by Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Continue celebrating the Fisk Jubilee Singer’s sesquicentennial and pair the concert film with the hour-long American Experience: Jubilee Singers for a founding history of the HBCU’s greatest ambassadors. Evergreen broadcast version and Passport availability in rights through November 18, 2022.

JUBILEE SINGERS: SACRIFICE AND GLORY: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE (AMEX 1208)

https://www.pbs.org/video/trailer-jubilee-singers/

https://www.pbs.org/video/jubilee-singers-j88mwl/

CREATIVE TEAM

Dr. Paul Kwami D.M.A. (Musical Director) – Professor Paul T. Kwami is the Musical Director of the multi-award-winning Fisk Jubilee Singers® and Coordinator of the Fisk University Music Discipline. Kwami was born in Ghana, West Africa, into a musical family with his father becoming his first music teacher. He studied music at Ghana’s National Academy of Music and taught there until immigrating to the U.S., becoming a student at Fisk University where he joined the Fisk Jubilee Singers®. He studied music at Western Michigan University and graduated with the Master of Music degree. He received the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the American Conservatory of Music. In the spring of 1994, Kwami served as part-time director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers® and became the full-time musical director in the fall of 1994. He is the first African to direct the ensemble, the first to hold the Curb-Beaman Chair position and the first named as the Mike Curb Jubilee Singers Endowed Chair. During Kwami’s tenure, the Fisk Jubilee Singers have received several awards including the first GRAMMY®, the first Dove Award, the Recording Academy Honors and the 2008 National Medal of the Arts. The ensemble also has been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Music City Walk of Fame and the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. He is the Executive Producer of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ recordings, “Rise, Shine, Fisk Jubilee Singers Live in Concert.” He is the Co-Executive Producer of “In Bright Mansions” and “Fisk Jubilee Singers® Celebrating Fisk!” the 150th Anniversary album. Under his directorship, the Fisk Jubilee Singers have performed in many great venues in Italy, Spain, Bahamas, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ghana and the United States of America.

Jon Royal (Producer/Director) – Jon Royal is a director, teacher and facilitator based in Nashville, TN. In 2019, he was named Best Theatre Director by the Nashville Scene. Over the past 20 years, Jon has worked with Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Repertory Theatre, Actor’s Bridge Ensemble, Street Theatre, Nashville Opera, People’s Branch Theatre and other organizations. His past directing credits include: “Pipeline,” “Topdog/Underdog,” “Smart People,” “Ghost (World Premiere),” “And In This Corner: Cassius Clay,” “Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” “Othello,” “Passing Strange,” “Colored Museum,” “Hairspray,” “Once on this Island,” “Twelfth Night,” “Conference of the Birds,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Spoon River Anthology,” “As You Like It,” “The Butterfly,” “Hanging Mary (World Premiere),” “Proof,” “ Jungle Book” and “The Coat.” In the 2004-05 season, he was the directing intern for Nashville Repertory Theatre, in which he assistant directed “The Piano Lesson” under Woodie King Jr. Royal is a past winner of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Student Directing Award for the Southeast Region. In 2004, he received a fellowship to study with Ming Cho Lee and Constance Hoffman. In 2016, he was a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s National Observership Class, in which he had the privilege of working with Liesel Tommy on the Public Theatre’s production of “Party People.” He serves as teaching artist for Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s ArtSmart and Disney Musicals in the Schools programs. He is currently the Co-Program Director for Shakespeare Center Los Angeles’ Write On program and Nashville Repertory Theatre’s Young Voices Competition.

Dona Spangler (Producer) – Dona Spangler is a Line Producer and Production Manager for film and television based in Nashville. She graduated from the University of Kentucky and Queen Mary’s College at University of London with a degree and advanced studies in English & Comparative Language. Prior to moving into film and television, she was Managing Director of a successful Los Angeles music publishing company and a Director of Repertoire at ASCAP where she co-produced ASCAP LA Pop Awards. Additionally, Spangler spent several years in artist management and marketing, coordinating Farm Aid IV and other benefit concerts in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Nashville. In 1998, she moved into film and video, producing more than 75 music videos for artists including Taylor Swift, Leann Rimes, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn and Jack White. In 2001, she expanded into feature films, beginning with “Civil Brand.” As of 2020, she has worked in production on 24 films including “42” (Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford), “Boulevard” (Robin Williams), “Stoker” (Nicole Kidman) and “The Last Castle” (Robert Redford, James Gandolfini). She continues to work in various roles as a freelance production person in film and music.

Loretta Harper (Costume Designer) – From Jack White to the Ryman Auditorium, Steven Tyler to Reba McEntire, Loretta Harper is leaving her mark on the music industry one bespoke design at a time. Having started her career in costume design for clubs where she was a dancer, Harper’s experience runs the gamut from film, television and music videos to world tours, commercial productions, award shows, documentaries, preservation and conservation. A performer herself, Harper’s passion for fashion design stems from a deep understanding of the rich history of textiles and the fashion industry, as well as what her clients need in order to do their jobs to the best of their ability. “I always take the environment into consideration. It is my job to keep my client comfortable at all times. It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer on tour or an individual coming to me for a gala gown, if you’re not comfortable in your clothes, you’re not going to be yourself. When it comes to designing, I draw my inspiration from whoever the person is that I’m working with. They must be the original who stands out and sets the standards,” Harper says. Harper places equal emphasis on historical accuracy and proper preservation in her conservation work. She is the textile archivist for the Elvis Presley estate in addition to her full- time employment with Reba McEntire, and she has acted as conservationist and consultant on countless historical projects, restoring pieces for the enjoyment of generations to come.

FILM CREW

Roger Pistole – Director of Photography
David Mellow – Camera Operator
Paul Cain – Camera Operator
Kip McDonald – 1st Assistant Camera
Tracy Facelli – 2nd Assistant Camera
JT Sumner – Digital Imaging Technician
Thomas Morrison – Sound Mixer
Nick Palladino – Post Sound Consultant
Tristen Abelson – Post Mixer
James Reed – Gaffer
Sondra Nottingham – Hair & Makeup Supervisor
Sandy Jo Johnston – Hair & Makeup Artist
Taylor Martin – Hair & Makeup Artist
Tara Keith – Production Coordinator
Jenny Nichols – Assistant Coordinator
Travis Gillespie – Driver

TPAC STAFF

Stephanie Weinzapfl – Director of Production
Brent Smith – Lighting Designer and Electrician
Jacob Sanders – Production Manager
Timothy Grace – Audio Engineer
Jack French – Event Manager
Jim Kelly – Director of Security & Safety
Alan Roberts – Security & Safety Manager

Fisk Jubilee Singers

FISK JUBILEE SINGERS

(Appearing in Walk Together Children)

Eren Brooks
Jeffrey Casey
Allen Christian ‘19
Andrew Davis
Kennedi Hall
Trinity Hervey
Kemani Iwu
Dejuan Jackson, Jr.
Kristen Oguno
Arianna Okhuozagbon
Hezekiah Robinson
Micah Showers
Jada Spight
Cortney Towns
Tory Westbrook

(Not appearing in Walk Together Children)
Chelseai Cunningham
Anthony Kennedy

SONGS FEATURED

“Done Made My Vow to the Lord”
Traditional
Arrangement by John W. Work III
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Tory Westbrook, Tenor

“The Blessing”
Written by: Paul Theophilus Kwami (BMI)
Performed by: Paul T. Kwami
& Fisk Jubilee Singers
Courtesy of Paul Kwami Music

“Down By the Riverside”
Traditional
Arrangement by Paul T. Kwami
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Trinity Hervey, Alto

“Steal Away to Jesus”
Traditional
Arrangement by Thomas Rutling
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers

“Show Me the Way”
Traditional
Arrangement by Thomas Rutling
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers

“Reign, Master Jesus”
Traditional
Arrangement by Thomas Rutling
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Kennedi Hall, Soprano

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
Traditional
Arrangement by Paul T. Kwami
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Kennedi Hall, Soprano

“Rockin’ Jerusalem”
Traditional
Arrangement by John W. Work III
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Cortney Townes, Soprano

“Talk About a Child that Do Love Jesus”
Traditional
Arrangement by William L. Dawson
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Kennedi Hall, Soprano

“Run, Mourner Run”
Traditional
Arrangement by John W. Work III
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Ariana Okhuozagbon, Alto
Kennedi Hall, Soprano

“Rise! Shine! For Thy Light is A-Comin'”
Traditional
Arrangement by John W. Work III
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Cortney Towns, Soprano

“The Gospel Train”
Traditional
Arrangement by Thomas Rutling
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Ariana Okhuozagbon, Alto

“I’m A-Rolling”
Traditional
Arrangement by Thomas Rutling
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers

“Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham”
Traditional
Arrangement by John W. Work III
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers
Jada Spight, Soprano

“Heav’n, Heav’n”
Traditional
Arrangement by H.T. Burleigh
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers

“Walk Together Children”
Traditional
Arrangement by Moses Hogan
Performed by Fisk Jubilee Singers

Founded in 1866, Fisk University is a private, liberal arts university located in Nashville, Tennessee. Consistently recognized for its brand of academic excellence, Fisk is ranked No. 6 on the Top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report. Fisk also ranked No. 1 in the nation among HBCUs for social mobility and No. 3 in the nation for research expenditures among small liberal arts colleges. Fisk university is deeply committed to student leadership, success and service. Fisk excels at preparing our highly motivated student body for elite graduate schools and outstanding careers. From the classroom to the boardroom, a Fisk education gives students the tools to turn their passions into careers and prepares them to make a difference in the world. To learn more, visit Fisk.edu.

Since 1980, this nonprofit has welcomed more than 14 million audience members and served more than 1.8 million students, teachers and adults with performances at TPAC, teacher resources, professional development opportunities, classroom residencies and enrichment programs. Each year, TPAC serves several hundred thousand audience members with its HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC series, a variety of special engagements, and the productions of three resident artistic companies – Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera and Nashville Repertory Theatre. TPAC’s mission is to lead with excellence in the performing arts and arts education, creating meaningful and relevant experiences to enrich lives, strengthen communities, and support economic vitality. Institutional sponsors for TPAC include Nissan North America, HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health and Coca-Cola. TPAC is funded in part by support from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission. As TPAC’s Official Health and Safety Partner, HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health is helping to build resilience in the performing arts community and guide the safe return to live performances and enriching arts experiences at TPAC for artists, patrons, staff, and volunteers.

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