This Thursday, February 2nd at 6:00pm The Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts (MCMA) will be starting a brand new four week course that will explore the many facets of the African American Spiritual

An expression of hope, joy, despair and faith, the African American Spiritual has established itself as one of the main elements of North American folk song and is a huge part of Americana.  From the plantation, to the share cropper, to the civil rights movement of the 60s and even today, the spiritual is the biggest mountain on the American folk music landscape.

Teaching this fascinating class at the MCMA will be Jazz vocalist Adele Wilding. Wilding is the inaugural winner of the 2005 BWA Nina Simone Award in London, England. She has performed at Jazz festivals, and taught Jazz workshops throughout Canada and the U.K. Wilding has toured Western Canada four times, appearing with several of the regions finest jazz, blues, gospel and soul artists.  

The idea of teaching a course on the spiritual came as a direct result of her vast experience in the Jazz idiom. For more than twenty years Wilding has been steeped in the Jazz tradition and this got her thinking about the roots of jazz music. “I’ve been performing Jazz all this time and jazz has become this hugely popular genre…I would like to tap into the roots of jazz…and that’s what gave me the idea to start delving into the African American spiritual both as a performer and a music educator,” explains Wilding.

More than just work songs the spiritual served to uplift spirits and was also used as code for African Americans as they tried to make their way north via the underground railroad. A great example of this is the well-known spiritual “Go Down Moses.” It would be sung in order to refer to Harriet Tubman the legendary women who risked her life again and again to free slaves through the under-ground railroad. As Wilding states, “She was often referred to as Moses because of her work and tenacity and her commitment to helping the escaped slaves reach a better life.”

One of the other topics that will be covered is the importance of the spiritual in twentieth century music, from the civil rights movement of the 60s up until today. “I’m going to be looking at how spirituals actually influenced the great folk singer-songwriters of the United States in the 1960s like the Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. We will also be listening to modern day songs that were written with the integrity of the spiritual… and gospel songs; because gospel songs are really the modern day equivalent of the early spiritual,” explains Wilding.

This fascinating four week course at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts starts this Thursday, February 2nd at 6:00pm, and is only available virtually, which means you don’t even need to leave the house to take in this very informative course. Stay inside,  stay warm and shield yourself from the typically bone chilling Winnipeg February weather, while at the same time learning about this captivating American genre of the African American Spiritual. What better way to celebrate Black History Month this February?

For those who take the course and enjoy it, Wilding will be offering a three part African American Spiritual workshop in March that starts on the 9th. For more details go to the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts website.