finds refuge in its music, lyrics
Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (December 2002) Male singing groups
have held an important place in the preservation of African-American
music, according to the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers. The enduring
feature of this music is neither protest nor self-expression, but rather
Singing is the only thing that can control you once troubles are
about. Its a refuge, said Brotherhood president Eric Jennings.
The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers are a Covington,
Ky.-based all-male group consisting of five to six singers dressed in
business suits, singing acappella in a barbershop harmonizing style.
They will bring their sounds to Carrollton, Ky., this month when they
perform at 1 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Carroll County Public Library as
part of the Wednesdays at One series. Their performance
is a Kentucky Arts Council presentation.
The group was formed 13 years ago when members of the Ninth Street Baptist
Church branched off to form the present group. Jennings said the musical
aspect began to weaken and the director, the Rev. Robert Gillespie,
grew too sick to continue his duties. Jennings picked up where Gillespie
He said that all six members grew up singing in church choirs. In African-American
communities across the United States, quartets and quintets were originally
organized to perform in churches, concert halls, lodges, museums and
anywhere else they could express their interpretation of the good
news in the form of gospel music.
Library director Jarrett Boyd had seen them perform at KY Crafted:
The Market in Louisville and said she was so impressed with them
that she booked them for the Wednesdays at One series.
Jennings said that the group chooses to sing acappela style because
of the natural blending of their voices.
We blend so easily. We seldom need to rehearse. It takes us back
to our fathers that sang in choirs in churches.
The group has performed in many different venues in Kentucky. They were
featured on a segment of Kentucky Educational Televisions Jubilee,
recorded at the Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, Ky. Jennings
said they have also performed several times for former Kentucky Gov.
Brereton C. Jones and Gov. Paul E. Patton for KETs In Performance
at the Governors Mansion.
The group is one of two acappela groups on the roster of the Kentucky
State Folk Arts Program of the Kentucky Arts Council. They adopted the
group a decade ago after a performance at the Carnegie Arts Center in
The Tour of Kentucky Folk Music was organized as part of the Kentucky
State Folk Arts Program, said program director Bob Gates. The group
was then documented by folk artists and added to the tours roster.
There are certain criteria the group had to meet. We look for
history and tradition, said Gates. And that tradition is
still alive today. Northern Kentucky was full of acappela groups at
one time. They draw on that tradition and are an excellent example of
this tradition. Were proud of them.
The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers are also gearing up for their
third tour of Spain on Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 27, 2002-Jan. 2, 2003. This
opportunity presented itself when the Dixie Hummingbirds saw the group
perform in Canada.
The Dixie Hummingbirds are one of the oldest permanent groups in the
genre. Since 1928, they have built a repertory and style that has undergone
a change from spirituals, jubilees and hymns sang in close harmony acappela
style, to a gospel sound that reflected the influence of rock music.
They are perhaps best known for their rendition of Love Me Like
Listening to the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers Canadian
performance, the Dixie Hummingbirds were reminded of themselves, said
Jennings. In the process of retiring, members of the Dixie Hummingbirds
realized that there were not many acappela groups around anymore.
They took us under their wings, said Jennings, and introduced
them to audiences in Spain.
Currently, the group has two CDs on the market: Wade In The Water
and Just A Closer Walk. Both CDs were recorded in Cincinnati.
For more information about the upcoming performance in Carrollton,
call the Carroll County Public Library at (502) 732-7020.
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