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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
The Dartmouth Gospel Choir has been invited to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a rare recognition for a school group from outside Louisiana. The group will sing on Saturday, April 28, as the opening act for the New Orleans-based Bishop Paul S. Morton and the Greater St. Stephens Mass Choir.
In addition, the choir will take part in a Katrina-related community service project on Friday, sing in church on Sunday, and perform at one or two high schools on Monday, before returning to Dartmouth, said Joshua Price Kol, director of student performance programs at Dartmouth's Hopkins Center for the Arts.
Jazz Fest bookers responded to the quality of the group's sound and the diversity of their music, said the choir's director, Walter Cunningham, who accompanies the group on keyboard and writes many of the choir's arrangements. "The students have worked very hard over the last few years to achieve the level of talent required to receive such a prestigious invitation. We are especially grateful and excited by the opportunity to assist in hurricane relief efforts and to share our message of faith, love, and inspiration with the Jazz Fest audiences."
The choir is one of only a few college groups from outside of Louisiana who will perform at the festival. The 60-plus-member choir is composed of Dartmouth students, a few Upper Valley community members, and about 20 musicians and singers who are members of Cunningham's Chicago-based gospel group One Accord. Cunningham resides part-time in Chicago.
Founded in 1970, the annual Jazz Fest draws tens of thousands to New Orleans for two weekends of music in such traditions as gospel, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, and Caribbean. The headline performers for Jazz Fest 2007, to be held April 27-29 and May 4-6, include Harry Connick, Jr., Norah Jones, Allen Toussaint, Ludacris, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jill Scott, Irma Thomas, Rod Stewart and Bonnie Raitt.
Almost ready to disband four years ago, the Dartmouth choir has experienced a rebirth under Cunningham's leadership, Kol said. "Everywhere this choir goes to perform, audiences are wowed by the artistry of the group and stunned—Dartmouth College has a world-class Gospel Choir? Well, we do."
This combination of music and mission is true to the choir's purpose, says Dartmouth Dean of Student Life Holly Sateia. "The gospel choir is unique in the sense that they not only care about the performances they give but also about supporting the communities in which they perform," she said.
The April 28 performance is scheduled for 4:15-5:15 pm. Further information about the festival can be obtained at their Web site.
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