It’s easy to dismiss the ministry of the Aeolians in our own community of Huntsville, but this past weekend, their music ministry through six performances in Blacksburg, Virginia, and its surrounding community was like streams in the desert refreshing the souls of people from all walks of life. Invited by the Department of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion on the campus of Virginia Technological and State University, the Aeolians opened up the Black Caucus’ Constituency Meeting with two spirituals on Friday morning at the Burris Inn. The Aeolians’ trade mark surround sound made such an impact on those present that many made a commitment to attend the choir’s full concert that evening.Friday evening’s program at the historic and newly renovated Lyric Theater, where at one time black people could only sit in the balcony, was performed to a sold-out audience which they shared with the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The sixteen singers—eight male and eight female students—that made up the Fisk Jubilee Singers opened up the first half of the program by performing traditional spirituals, following in the footsteps of the institution’s original founding singers and continuing their legacy in performance style and size. The group’s light, delicate and yet traditional performance of the standard core of the spirituals repertoire was a reminder to some, and an introduction to others, of the great nineteenth century choral composers of spirituals.The Oakwood University Aeolians opened up the second half of the program with their signature brand of performance and interpretation that is only known to those who have heard them. A wall of sound came from the opening chords of the 45 students—half of which are music majors and minors, along with the other half representing other disciplines. The climactic sounds that reverberated off the walls of this once segregated theatre brought not only tears to some, but the entire audience to its feet. This was an evening that one had to experience. There was something special in the auditorium that Sabbath night, which one Caucasian lady in the audience described as “having church.” Never had “[she] heard such beautiful music. You must come back again,” she said while another mentioned, “this is like an oasis in the barren desert.”At the invitation of Don and Lynette Woods—former members of the Oakwood University community— the Aeolians took their music ministry to the Radford SDA church situated in the River Valley of Radford, Virginia. Starting early at 9:30 a.m., the Aeolians performed a 45 minute concert, after which they were whisked away to Melrose SDA Church, situated about thirty-five miles away, to perform another concert. At each event, the Lord used the choir, soloists, monologues and dramatic interpretation to minister to his people.Another highlight of the weekend’s activity was the opening by the Aeolians for the Kirk Franklin concert on Saturday evening. After their performance many in the audience commented on the musical acumen of the group. Many wanted to know about Oakwood University, the musical training of the students—so much so that the chairperson of the Music Department, Dr. Audley Chambers, found himself answering many question. At the end of the program several Aeolian members took advantage of the photo op with the nationally famous vocal artist Kirk Franklin.The Aeolians closed out the weekend’s performances at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday evening where former Oakwood president Dr. Frank Hale, resides and was in attendance. One Oakwood alumnus who attended the performance was so impressed that he graciously insisted on paying for the group’s evening meal. His comment following the concert was, “I’m a graduate from Oakwood, and I’m so proud of our students that I just want to give back to the institution.” Mt. Olivet’s senior pastor, Dr. Charles Booth, made tribute to Roland Carter who is a distinguished African American authority on spirituals. Commentary was made that Aeolians director Jason Max Ferdinand, is following directly in the footsteps of such great musical masters. He has invited the Aeolians to return each February to perform for Black History Month.
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