Monthly Archives: March 2014

Spiritual Gifts to Mark 30th Anniversary with April 5th Community Concert

Dr. Regennia N. Williams prepares for her January 2013 Severance Hall choral conducting debut in this Dress Rehearsal with the Spiritual Gifts Gospel Chorus in the Reinberger Chamber Hall.

Dr. Regennia N. Williams prepares for her January 2013 Severance Hall choral conducting debut in this dress rehearsal with the Spiritual Gifts Gospel Chorus in the Reinberger Chamber Hall.


The Spiritual Gifts Gospel Chorus will celebrate its 30th Anniversary with a community concert on Saturday, April 5, 2014, 4 p.m., at Cleveland’s New Joshua Missionary Baptist Church.  A reception will follow the concert.  The church is located at 11200 Miles Avenue, and Rev. Walter Humphrey serves as pastor.  Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.



Spiritual Gifts performs and teaches others about the music of the historic African American church. Each member brings a wealth of talent, training, and performance experience to their work. Among the singers are several individuals who trace their public performances in a Cleveland State University-related ensemble to a Black Aspirations Week Gospel Choir that presented its debut concert in 1984. CSU alumnus Nathaniel Williams Jr. served as pianist/director for that choir, Messengers of Joy (a subsequent student community ensemble), the first Spiritual Gifts Gospel Choir (founded in 1994), and An Evening of Gospel Music at Severance Hall in 2003. Kevin Gibaldi, another CSU alumnus, served as Associate Director for the Messengers of Joy. In 2009, David Manning Thomas, also a CSU alumnus, directed the Spiritual Gifts Ensemble in its Community Open House performance at Severance Hall, and in December 2011, CSU alumna Beverly Brown served as Choir Master for the group’s “Colors of Christmas” performance with the Cleveland Orchestra.  Spiritual Gifts was also part of the September 2012 “Harvest Time” Concert at the Mount Zion Church of Oakwood Village, Ohio.  On January 21, 2013, the choir returned to Severance Hall for a second Community Open House performance, with Pastor Nathaniel Williams, Jr. serving as Music Director.  In September 2013, Spiritual Gifts also performed on the “Come Sunday @ 70” Duke Ellington concert at Trinity Cathedral. 


CSU alumna Lana Miller serves as the president of Spiritual Gifts and the director of the Voices of New Joshua.  Miller was also the project coordinator for New Joshua’s May 2013 live concert recording in Cleveland State University’s Drinko Recital Hall.   The audio cd from that recording will be released at the April 5th reception at New Joshua.


Spiritual Gifts works in collaboration with CSU’s Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD), and Dr. Regennia N. Williams is the founder and director of Spiritual Gifts and RASHAD.  The April 5th concert is the second in RASHAD’s “Concerts Around Cleveland” series.   For more information, call 216-523-7182.

Roland Hayes and “The Music of Black Americans”

Roland Hayes, Tenor (Photo: Carl Van Vechten)

Roland Hayes, Tenor
(Photo: Carl Van Vechten)



Having witnessed the  Cleveland Play House performance of “Breath and Imagination” on March 9, 2014, I  can honestly say that the life story of legendary tenor Roland Hayes continues to inspire great performances by singers, actors, and instrumentalists alike.  I celebrate the creative genius of playwright Daniel Beaty, and I applaud the efforts of the Cleveland Play House,  as it continues to stage amazing works in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square.


For more information about the true story that inspired the play, please see Eileen Southern’s The Music of Black Americansa book that has earned a permanent place in my personal library.


Dr. Regennia N. Williams

Pictured here are (left to right) Cleveland-based tenor Dwight Fleming and cast members Tom Frey, Daphne Gaines, native Clevelander Elijah Rock (aka Eric Myricks).

Masjid Bilal Observes International Women’s Day


Today, I had the pleasure of spending International Women’s Day with the members and friends of Cleveland’s Masjid Bilal congregation.  In addition to my presentation on the Praying Grounds Oral History Project, the program included dinner and a jazz performance by the Glenn Holmes Trio and vocalist Evelyn Wright.

Kim Scott

Kim Scott, Praying Grounds Oral History Interviewee






It was wonderful to share highlights from some of the oral history narratives for Muslims in our collection, including those for Kim Scott and Osman Ali.  In closing out my tribute to women, I invited program participants to join me in celebrating the genius of writer Margaret Walker Alexander, author of For My People and numerous other works.

Margaret Walker Alexander

Margaret Walker Alexander, 1915-1998






“For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power. . .”












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