By Paul Hoverman
By Paul Hoverman

Not very often have we invited a musical group back to perform at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, however when I heard the American Spiritual Ensemble was coming through our area again, I just couldn't resist. On their way from Lexington, Kentucky to Bowling Green State University, we were a natural stop for this magnificent vocal ensemble.

This Friday night, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m., the ASE will once again bless us with a concert of American Spirituals with a sprinkling of jazz and Broadway. It was this time of the year in 2011 when we first experienced the ASE in Van Wert. I had heard them in NYC a year before and immediately knew our audience needed to hear this ensemble.

Comprised of 25 singers from all over the world, each singer is an accomplished soloist in their own right. They have sung in theatres and opera houses worldwide including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and abroad in Italy, Germany, Britain, Scotland, Spain and Japan. The group includes five lead Broadway performers- including one Tony Award winner and two Tony Award nominees as well as 10 performers with doctoral degrees in music. Quite a resume'!

Led and directed by Dr. Everett McCorvey, he is a native of Montgomery, Alabama. He is a professor of Voice and holds the Lexington Opera Society Endowed Chair in Opera Studies position at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He is also on the artist faculty of the American Institute of Musical Study in Graz, Australia.

I have seen the program for this year's tour and once again, it looks wonderful including a few standards that we heard the last time, but also some new pieces that I can't wait to hear. Of course the concert will be mixed with complete chorus pieces as well as solos, small ensembles, and even a little dancing and drumming.

I remember the reaction from the audience two years ago. Many didn't really know what to expect and were just blown away! The power of these voices and the rhythmic precision made these American Spirituals come alive. You just knew you were in the midst of superb musicianship when these voices sang.

Well, you have the chance now to re-live that experience and make sure that your friends who missed the first time around, don't miss it this time. We are quickly filling up for the American Spiritual Ensemble this Friday night, but you might be able to get a ticket that night and you certainly can get one now by visiting our box office or calling (419) 238-NPAC (6722). You can also reserve seats on-line by visiting our website: www.npacvw.org or on face book.

As an aside, we feel fortunate that Dr. Everett McCorvey and a few of the singers from the ASE have agreed to work a master class with the Crestview, Lincolnview and Van Wert High School Choirs. This will be conducted in the afternoon before the concert on Friday. What a great experience for these students and their directors to get some professional advice on a piece of music they have been working on for performance and/or contest next month. We always said this performance hall was for the entire county to benefit from and this is just another example of how our young people are enjoying its benefits!

I hope you can make this acoustic concert - all natural sound! Some of my favorites. FINE