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Heaven Bent Gospel Choir Presents An Anthology Of Hope

Sat Nov 11th, 2023

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Join Heaven Bent for An Anthology of Hope, a historical journey through our repertoire, tracing the origins and rise of African American gospel music.

Those brought as slaves from Africa also brought their own rhythms and song styles. Singing conveyed hope, joy and affirmation in a harsh world and was often performed in a ‘shout’ circle or in a ‘call and response’ style. Sometimes what seemed like simple spirituals based on the Bible, conveyed coded messages for escape, particularly during the emancipation era. In the 20th century some of the old traditional songs were adapted as freedom songs during the Civil Rights era.

With the migration of African Americans north to cities like Chicago and New York, different styles of gospel music developed. Church choirs added instruments and singers like Mahalia Jackson emerged. The growth of harmonic quartets and groups saw this music branching out from the church and into the world of jazz, rhythm ’n’ blues and even rock n roll.

An Anthology of Hope incorporates, songs, stories and visuals that bring to life the history of the music that is said to be the very foundation of American popular music.

So why does Heaven Bent, a largely secular New Zealand choir sing this musical genre? Because it is joyful to sing and truly inspires hope, whatever your private belief system. Visiting African American choir director Eric Dozier once told us that the music of his people “was never meant to be just for us”.
“Gospel songs”, he continued, are “windows into the thoughts, souls, and emotions of people. They are essential to creating powerful moments of community—of coming together in all our glorious brilliant humanity and creating the world that we want to see.”


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