Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song, under the direction of Roland Carter, will honor the memory of one of its founders and directors, Dr. Lee Norris Mackey, in a concert on Saturday, May 28, 5 p.m., at First Baptist Church at 401 Gateway Dr. The concert will feature Soprano, Gail Robinson-Oturo, and the CCSPAAS performing music of Don Lee White, Rosephanye Powell and Roland Carter.
“Dr. Mackey was a co-founder of the Society and a musician who loved the arts,” said CCSPAAS President James Toney. “He spent over 30 years teaching music. When he was not teaching, he was studying and perfecting his skills. He studied at Talladega College, the Juilliard School of Music, Paine College, Morgan State University and Tennessee State University.”
In 1984, Dr. Lee Norris Mackey undertook a research project to investigate the programming performance practices, and recordings of African American spirituals by choirs of Historically Black Colleges, and Universities. He found that there had been a significant decline in the performance of spirituals; thus the need, mission, and name of the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song were affirmed. Dr. Mackey sought and received funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga to formally establish the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song in 1984.
Dr. Mackey taught music in the Chattanooga Public Schools System, where he directed highly acclaimed choral programs at both the Brainerd and Chattanooga High Schools. With its students, alumni, and friends, the membership base of the Society was expanded.
“The mission of the Society expanded to include art music of African American composers,” said CCSPAAS Director Roland Carter. “In 1990, the name changed to the Society for the Preservation of African American Song to reflect this expansion.”
Since 1990, Roland Carter, a distinguished conductor, pianist, composer and arranger also, a Howard alumnus and Simmons protégé, has directed CCSPAAS. Dr. Carter is the Ruth S. Holmberg Professor of American Music at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also serves as director of the Chancel Choir of the Cascade United Methodist Church of Atlanta, and artist-in-residence at the Christian Faith Baptist Church of Raleigh, N.C. He is the immediate past president of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., and serves on the boards of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and the League of American Orchestras. Under his guidance, CCSPAAS released their first recording "Close to Thee." Dr. Carter will step down as director at the end of the current season.
Don Lee White was a very close friend of Dr. Carter, who passed in September of 2010. He was part owner of the publishing company Mar-Vel founded by Dr. Carter in 1978. Mar-Vel was established to promote the music of African Americans composers and traditions. At the time of the company’s founding there was little interest in major publishers in the traditional spiritual and art music of African Americans.
Mar-Vel is recognized as a major source for “distinguished choral music of African American composers and traditions. Dr. Carter is editing White’s collection of hymns by African American composers spanning nearly 200 years. The Society will perform settings from Whites Beatitudes and Commandments.
Dr. Gail Robinson-Oturu will perform arrangements for voice and piano from Dr. Carter’s soon to be released Collection of Spiritual Art Songs. The settings Carter span a period of nearly 46 years, having completed his first arrangements for voice and piano in 1965. Dr. Oturu and Dr. Carter recently presented excerpts of the collection in Houston, TX for the biennial in-service conference of National Association for the Study and Performance of Africa American Music. Dr. Oturu is Professor of Voice at Austin Peay State University. The collection to be released in September of this year is dedicated in memory of Dr. Carter’s former student, long time friend and co-performer, Marilyn Thompson.
The Society will also include music by composer Rosephanye Powell. (Dr. Powell’s works are favorites among choirs all over the word. She is professor of music at Auburn University)
Selections from Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha will also be featured. The concert will end with two contemporary gospel songs Just For Me and Hallelujah is the Highest Praise.
Tickets for the May 28 performance are $10 and may be purchased the day of the performance at First Baptist – 401 Gateway Dr.