In 1871 George L. White, treasurer and music professor at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee created a nine-member choral ensemble of students and took it on tour to earn money for the university. The original Fisk Jubilee Singers introduced ‘slave songs’ to the world and were instrumental in preserving this unique American musical tradition known today as Negro spirituals, according to the group’s website.
In 1872 they sang at the World Peace Festival in Boston and at the end of the year President Ulysses S. Grant invited them to perform at the White House. In 1873 the group toured Europe for the first time and performed for Queen Victoria in London. Funds raised that year were used to construct the school’s first permanent building, Jubilee Hall.
In 2008 the Fisk Jubilee Singers received the National Medal of Arts for their historic contributions to American music. But until now the group had never won a Grammy Award. But this year they won Best Roots Gospel Album for “Celebrating Fisk! (The 150th Anniversary Album).”
The album is a collection of 12 songs that beautifully represents and communicates the powerful and vibrant history of Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and the city of Nashville. Paul Kwami, musical director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, stated that “the Fisk Jubilee Singers established and introduced a unique form of American music to the world in the 1800s and the legacy lives on!”
You may listen to the album HERE.
A video about the making of the album can be viewed below.