University of South Carolina

Bringing historical spirituals to life

By Liz White,, 803-777-2848

USC’s Gospel Choir hopes that when it performs the audience will feel the music and join in.

“The music that we’re singing helps people connect with early American culture and African-American culture,” said Carl Wells, director of the choir. “It’s hauntingly infectious. It just grabs you.”  

Jaris Dykas, a junior German major and member of the choir, said she likes when audience members get swept up in the music and clap, sing along or raise their hands in praise.

Wells, who teaches gospel choir as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Music, vividly remembers hearing powerful gospel songs in his house growing up.

“I grew up hearing my mother and father sing this kind of music when I was young,” Wells said. “I remember lying in the bed one morning and hearing this wonderful sound travel throughout the house along with the smell of the morning biscuit and bacon. It was my mother singing one of these songs.”

Today (Oct. 3), the choir will bring back traditional Negro spirituals, freedom songs and plantation melodies in its Festival of Spirituals.  

“This music was original sung by people who had daily struggles, but yet the music empowered them to live in the midst of the struggle,” said Wells, who teaches in addition to his job as assistant director for the USC Office of Equal Opportunity Programs. “So I hope that message is conveyed to the audience and they understand the power of this music.” 

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in Drayton Hall and is presented by the English Programs for Internationals, the USC School of Music and the African American Studies Program.

The USC Gospel Choir will be joined by opera singers, Ollie Watts Davis, s professor of music and voice faculty at the University of Illinois (Urbana Champagne), and Tina Stallard, an associate professor of voice in the School of Music. Men of Praise, an a capella gospel ensemble, will also sing a few selections with the USC Gospel Choir.

Festival of Spirituals

  • Who: USC Gospel Choir 
  • Where: Drayton Hall 
  • When: Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m. 
  • What: Traditional Negro spirituals, freedom songs and plantation melodies

News and Internal Communications

Posted: 10/02/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/03/12 @ 10:46 AM | Permalink