Monday, January 23, 2012

L.A. Times Music Blog: 'Kathleen Battle sings spirituals at UCLA's Royce Hall'

[Kathleen Battle (Credit: Douglas Foulke); Spirit, 2009 CD of Cyrus Chestnut; The Best of Jubilee Volume II, CD of Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers of Los Angeles]

Frederick Douglass, the great 19th century orator, writer and former slave, once wrote of the music he regularly heard emerging from the fields and houses where he and other slaves toiled, “I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do.”

Those words were recited Saturday at UCLA during soprano Kathleen Battle’s 'Underground Railroad' program of African American spirituals, in which she offered convincing proof of Douglass’ theory, with inspired assistance from pianist Cyrus Chestnut and L.A.’s Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers.

It was the kind of intelligently conceived evening that all too often is restricted to February for Black History Month, one whose message and music are relevant any day of the year. The 63-year-old soprano guided the near-capacity crowd in elegant Royce Hall through nearly two dozen traditionals, beginning with 'Lord, How Come Me Here?' through the show-closing reading of 'He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.'”

No comments: