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St. Louis Cathedral Concerts' 'Joyous Jubilee' Series Highlights African-American Musical Influences

(L-R) Simeon Layne, Dello Thedford and Scott Kennebeck detailed the St. Louis Cathedral Concerts' inaugural “Joyous Jubilee” concert series.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh previewed three upcoming concerts set to take place at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and feature contemporary gospel music as well as sacred music.

Joining the discussion were Scott Kennebeck, executive and artistic director for Cathedral Concerts; Simeon Layne, director of the North City Deanery Choir; and Dello Thedford, director of the Gospel Symphonic Choir.

Scheduled for this Friday as well as Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, the Cathedral Concerts “Joyous Jubilee” series will celebrate the influence of African-American music.

“It’s going to be joyous indeed,” Kennebeck said. He explained how the three-part concert series came to be, noting that he’d first booked the American Spiritual Ensemble, whose mission is to further the African-American spiritual tradition, but also wanted to expand on that.

“I thought, ‘Isn't there a way we can make this bigger than just a one concert event on February 1?’” Kennebeck recalled.

The Cathedral Concerts later connected with the local groups Gospel Symphonic Choir and the North City Deanery Choir. Kennebeck said he hopes to see the “Joyous Jubilee” become an annual event.

"You're no longer just singing notes, but those notes literally become alive."

Thedford said the Gospel Symphonic Choir will sing what they call sacred music, which includes spirituals, anthems and contemporary gospel music.

“It certainly is a wonderful experience, first of all, to sing in such a room like the [Cathedral Basilica] and for us to sing for such a wide range of an audience, and to show the various genres of music that we sing in the sacred setting – and particularly in African-American setting,” Thedford added.

Layne described the different repertoire that his North City Deanery Choir will pursue during their performance.

“We’re trying to showcase contemporary gospel at its best from some periods of time people have never heard music from,” Layne said, making mention ofDonny Hathaway, Richard Smallwood and the group Hot Tea with members including Angela Winbush and Tawatha Agee.

When asked where gospel music gets its edge from, Layne suggested that singers “find a spot in their heart where it's the deepest moment in their life, and they begin to proclaim to God how they are grateful for the blessings they’re receiving right now … It’s from the soul, it’s from the heart.”

“You're no longer just singing notes, but those notes literally become alive. And that's the difference in singing that gospel music. It's just not notes, but it's very much a part of [the singers],” Thedford added.

Listen to the full discussion to hear more about the St. Louis Cathedral Concerts' inaugural “Joyous Jubilee” concert series and a couple musical clips:

Related Event
What: Joyous Jubilee: Music to Lift the Soul series
When: 8 p.m. Friday, January 18 (North City Deanery Choir), Friday, January 25(Gospel Symphonic Choir) and February 1, 2019 (American Spiritual Ensemble)
Where: The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (4431 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108)

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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