UI Black Chorus marking golden Jubilee at Mom's Day concert

UI Black Chorus marking golden Jubilee at Mom's Day concert

CHAMPAIGN — It has been a glorious 50 years for the UI Black Chorus — a Jubilee, a Bible word fitting for sacred music.

Its Mom's Day Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Foellinger Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Led for 37 years by University of Illinois music Professor Ollie Watts Davis, who has performed at Carnegie Hall, the group's Mom's Day Concert will welcome alumni back to campus and feature arrangements of spirituals, anthems, hymns and traditional and contemporary gospel selections.

Davis said she is "overjoyed with the opportunity to present this Jubilee Mom's Day Concert. I'm hoping that all who attend will receive the offering and the blessing that is being intentionally prepared. In addition to our traditional formal flair, we will offer a generous invitation for audience participation. There will be rejoicing, clapping, dancing, swaying and singing."

"Prepare to be uplifted and refreshed," she promised.

Brianna Tyler is president of the Black Chorus. She joined it as a transfer student in the fall of 2016.

"At my previous school, there wasn't much opportunity for black students to engage in something like the Black Chorus, so when I got to Illinois, I knew that I would be joining the chorus," she said. "I saw the Black Chorus as an opportunity to celebrate my heritage, be involved with the community and sing music that is healing to my soul."

There will be anthems, such as "Lift Every Voice," and spirituals like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," she said

"Then we'll be doing a gospel section with classic, contemporary and traditional gospel songs. In between those two sections of our concert, we do a tribute section honoring popular music artists. I don't want to give too much away, but we do popular music from both the 2000s as well as some throwbacks from the '80s," she said.

So the chorus has adapted with the times.

"Not only has the choir made it to 50 years on campus, but it has been 50 years uninterrupted and going strong," Tyler said. "The fact that an ensemble on campus has been so sustainable and has such a history of serving its community is amazing to me. This choir represents so much of what I aspire to do as a future music educator."

Tyler noted, "over the 50 years, the choir's demographic has changed. We have members from various ethnic backgrounds come together to learn and celebrate this music, which is such a beautiful thing to me."

When Anna Burton was in high school, she attended the Illinois Summer Youth Music camp put on by the UI. Watts' leadership inspired her to join the Black Chorus.

"On this concert, I am fortunate enough to be singing the solo on the piece 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' and I am delighted to represent the choir in this manner," Burton said.

"Black Chorus is such an uplifting, positive, blessing community, and I am so fortunate to have been able to contribute to its legacy and help tell others of its meaning and message."

There will also be a special selection to honor the mothers of the Black Chorus' graduating seniors and a "Mom of the Year" presentation by the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center.

The concert is presented by the UI Black Chorus with the support of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, the School of Music and Krannert Center for Performing Arts.

If you go

What: UI Black Chorus Mom's Day Concert

Who: Ollie Watts Davis, conductor

Where: Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $10

Info: 217-333-6280, krannertcenter.com/events/ui-black-chorus-mom%E2%80%99s-day-concert