Nathaniel Dett Chorale

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is Canada’s first professional choral group dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles, including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues. The 21 classically trained outstanding vocalists of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale have shared the stage with internationally recognized artists such as Juno Award-winning jazz pianist Joe Sealy, singers Molly Johnson and Jackie Richardson, and opera star Kathleen Battle and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The ensemble has performed for such luminaries as opera singer Jessye Norman and Dance Theatre of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell. The Chorale has performed at events honouring world leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, personality Muhammad Ali, and pianist Oscar Peterson and was the only Canadian ensemble invited to perform as part of the celebrations surrounding the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama in January of 2009.

As a response to being enslaved during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, men and women of African heritage created spirituals, songs of sorrow, love, faith, and hope. Many of these songs were encoded with covert messages as a way to sing freedom into existence. 

Even though slavery is illegal in almost every country of the world, the simple fact is that modern slavery is alive and well; men, women and children are still enslaved every day in myriad ways in almost every country of the world.

James Weldon Johnson, in what has come to be known as the ‘Black National Anthem’ wrote, “Lift every voice and sing ‘till earth and heaven ring with the harmony of liberty.”  Today we sing in solidarity with oppressed peoples everywhere, and for the day when all will know sweet freedom’s way. As you participate with us in this program, I invite you to experience the power, universality and enduring resonance of the Spiritual; to catch the subtle undertone, the note in the music heard not with the ears, and the reason why the songs still live. 

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