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Morehouse College Glee Club preps for rare performance with the Charlotte Symphony

Oct 1, 2019

By Lawrence Toppman, Arts Corresponent 
The Charlotte Observer

David Morrow tells people it's easier to get in the Morehouse College Glee Club than to stay in.

Applicants don't have to be music majors or even musically literate. All they need, the director said, "is a reliable voice, a good ear and a commitment to work hard, learn and musically grow" -- and confidence enough to stand their ground in one of the few American college choruses with an international reputation.

The glee club left its Atlanta home to perform this year in Algeria, adding Africa to a tour roster that has included Honduras, Poland and Russia under Morrow's leadership. Now it comes to Charlotte for a rare Oct. 10 pairing with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

That program of orchestral and choral works will range from Nigerian Christmas music in Yoruba -- "Betelehemu," a Morehouse staple for half a century -- to "The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," with texts taken from the final utterances of slain black men. Morrow will conduct the glee club; CSO resident conductor Christopher James Lees will lead the orchestra in Beethoven's overture to "Fidelio," Nkeiru Okoye's "Charlotte Mecklenburg" and other pieces.

The Morehouse College Glee Club often performs a cappella or with keyboard accompaniment. That's how it became famous in the 1960s, singing at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Choral Festival created by Robert Shaw. (Morehouse performed with the Atlanta Symphony during Shaw's tenure and still does.) Those appearances convinced the U.S. Department of State to send the glee club on a tour of West African nations in 1972.

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