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February 4, 2000


LA CROSSE, Wis.-- The Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, a group committed to keeping alive the American Negro Spiritual, will bring its renowned art, style and character to the Viterbo Fine Arts Center Main Theatre for a Bright Start Season Performance on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 2 p.m.

Comprised of six singers and two instrumentalists, the Ensemble’s goal is to capture the character and human nobility of Negro Spirituals and keep their interpretations as close as possible to the originals.

Not to be confused with gospel music, which requires accompaniment, the Negro Spiritual is rooted in African history and tradition. Spirituals were developed as a means of communication among Africans brought as slaves to the United States. Since they were from different regions in Africa and were often separated from families and tribes, music was a means for the slaves to share their feelings and experiences with one another. It was also a means of communication for those hoping to escape slavery.

The Viterbo Concert Choir will join the Ensemble during the second half of the performance of the cantata "Sisters of Freedom," which was written and composed for the Ensemble by Linda Twine and Frances Harper. "Sisters of Freedom" is a narrative song based on the lives of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, former slaves who fought slavery and sexism in 19th century America.

"The entire performance promises to be a rich display of talent, soulful song, and solidarity along with a lesson in American history," says Michael Ranscht, special events coordinator for the Fine Arts Center.

Founded and directed by Francois Clemmons, the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble has performed in such places as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Kansas City, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Miami, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and New York City, where they made their Carnegie Hall debut in 1991.  They have toured Italy eight times and have sung throughout Germany, Austria, France, and Finland since their inception in 1986.  This season they will make international appearances in Italy, Israel, and Spain.

This event is sponsored by Dayton’s and supported, in part, by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

Tickets are $24  and $18. To order tickets, or for more information, contact the Viterbo Box Office between 11 a.m. and 5p.m. weekdays at 796-3100.

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