Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture” to Hold Two Evening Concerts

June 12, 2009
News Release

The 2009 Folklife Festival program “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture” will hold two evening concerts. The program will explore and celebrate the role that African American oral traditions have played in the shaping of American culture. It will feature poetry, storytelling, humor, radio and theater. It is sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 24, through Sunday, June 28, and Wednesday,  July 1, through Sunday, July 5, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 6 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

The first concert, featuring The Stanley Thurston Heritage Signature Chorale, will take place Friday, June 26, at 6 p.m. in Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History. The chorale, currently in its ninth season, was created to carry on the African American choral tradition, in particular the Negro Spiritual. Stanley J. Thurston is the group’s founding music director and a well-known pianist, composer and conductor. He is currently the artistic director of gospel choirs with the Washington Performing Arts Society and the director of music at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

The second concert, featuring The Birmingham Sunlights, will take place Sunday,July 5, at 6 p.m. also in Baird Auditorium. The Birmingham Sunlights is a five-man, four-part harmony a cappella gospel group founded in 1978 by music director James Alex Taylor and his brothers Steve and Barry. The brothers’ singing style has its roots in the quartet singing of Alabama’s Jefferson County, where a fifth member doubles the tenor voice. The Birmingham Sunlights are the 2009 recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

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