Fisk University Jubilee Singers

In Bright Mansions

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The Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville TN have dazzled thousands of concert-goers since their inception in 1871, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for an African-American school that desperately needed a benefactor, and gaining fans from midwest America to the Netherlands. Except for a few poorly distributed albums in recent years, though, the group hadn't been released in several decades, and regardless, they've certainly never been better heard than on Curb's lavish 2003 production, In Bright Mansions. Digitally recorded with seven microphones in a mid-19th century Nashville church (that now houses a studio), the album is among the best ways to appreciate dynamic jubilee singing. Most of the arrangements are at least a half-century old, though a few songs have new arrangements from director Paul T. Kwami (a native Ghanaian who joined the group in 1995). Fortunately for neophytes, the group includes their performances of many classics of the form: "Were You There," "There Is a Balm in Gilead," "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," and an eerily powerful "Wade in the Water." Those with a yen for history can check out the lengthy, informative liner notes detailing the group's history, but the music is the key, and it's gorgeous.

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