NATS American Negro Spiritual Category

 Held every other year, in odd-numbered years.

Category Info

Beginning in the fall of 2020, The American Negro Spirituals Category will be added to regularly scheduled regional student auditions with the top five regional winners advancing to the NSA rounds, as with all other NSA-eligible categories. Chapters are also eligible and encouraged to add this competition to chapter auditions. Where applicable, Chapter auditions serve as qualifying rounds for advancement into region auditions. The American Negro Spirituals Category will alternate with the Hall Johnson Spirituals Category nationally, with the Hall Johnson Category offered in even numbered years.

Although most of the composers of the spirituals we now sing are unknown, the melodies and lyrics have been arranged by hundreds of arrangers in many different styles. The spirituals approved for performance in NATS auditions are the classical arrangements of the North American Negro Spirituals and arranged by classical North American composers. The terminology for singing in the American Negro Spirituals category is outlined and defined in the classical Audition Terminology.

While the American Negro Spirituals’ geneses are of and by African Americans, they tell the stories in music of the history of our country. NATS encourages all singers to explore, study, and perform these beautiful songs.

History

The American Negro Spirituals are the folk songs created by the enslaved Africans after their arrival in North America between 1619 and 1860. Although slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect January 1, 1863, the enslaved people in Texas did not receive the notice until June 19, 1865, hence the Juneteeth Celebration.

The songs created and sung by enslaved women, men and children were born in North America and recant with dignity, resolve and sometimes joy, their stories of life, death, faith, hope, escape, and survival. These melodies and stories have been passed down orally from generation to generation in the plantation fields, in churches and in camp meetings and have presently taken their places on concert hall stages and recital series around the world.

Some may wonder why NATS has chosen to use the classification American Negro Spiritual as opposed to a more updated term, and perhaps more contemporary classification like African-American Spirituals.  Dr. Everett McCorvey, Founder of the American Spiritual Ensemble and a researcher in this area, comments:

“The term American Negro Spirituals speaks to the history, the suffering, the hope and the resolve of a people who were able to sing through their suffering and tell and re-tell their heroic stories of triumph and survival through these songs.  It is a story and a history that hopefully will never be forgotten.  And while the songs were born out of this very dark period in our American History, these songs are now sung, celebrated, and revered all around the world.  While some of the language in the music is updated in order to be sung in a more contemporary style and to remove the barrier of dialect, the melodies, the sentiment and the stories of the spirituals are over 400 years old and need to be sung and remembered. I would encourage teachers and singers to be comfortable with calling the melodies what they are.  They are American Negro Spirituals. Please feel free to call them Negro Spirituals or just Spirituals or American Negro Spirituals, but the ultimate goal is for these melodies to be celebrated and sung by all.”

                        – Dr. Everett McCorvey, Founder and Director
                           American Spiritual Ensemble

                           Artistic Director, National Chorale and Orchestra
                           New York, New York

                           Professor of Voice and Endowed Chair in Opera Studies
                           University of Kentucky
                           Lexington, Kentucky

Awards

  1. High School 
    1. $1,200 - 1st place in each category
    2. $600 - 2nd place in each category
    3. $450 - 3rd place in each category
  2. First thru Third Year College Age
    1. $1,200 - 1st place in each category
    2. $600 - 2nd place in each category
    3. $450 - 3rd place in each category
  3. Fourth/Fifth Year College Age thru Graduate
    1. $1,600 - 1st place in each category
    2. $900 - 2nd place in each category
    3. $500 - 3rd place in each category

Official Repertoire

Arrangements in classical style of the North American Negro Spirituals, by composers similar to the style of Hall Johnson, R. Nathaniel Dett, Florence Price, Moses Hogan, Edward Boatner, Undine Smith Moore, James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson, Margaret Bonds and others. The classical style excludes Gospel, Blues, and Jazz music. (Click HERE for list of approved arrangements and collections.)

*Authorized scores of repertoire not found on the publications list, can be vetted/approved by contacting one of the following NATS members:

  1. Alexis Davis-Hazell adavishazell@ua.edu
  2. Barbara Hill-Moore bhmoore@mail.smu.edu
  3. Everett McCorvey mccorvey@uky.edu
  4. Marcia Porter MPorter@admin.fsu.edu

Eligibility

  1. This competition will only take place in odd-numbered years. Region auditions occur throughout the year with some regions holding the regional auditions in the Fall of the preceding year.
  2. Open to any singer who meets the requirements listed below:
CATEGORY NUMBER
AND TITLE
LENGTH OF STUDY AGE LIMIT   TIME                       Voice Type

*REPERTOIRE:
all repertoire is sung from memory

16 High School
American Negro Spirituals

No limit 14-­‐19

8 minutes

All

Three American Negro Spirituals contrasting by composer, tempo and text.
*See publications list

17 First Through Third Year College Age
American Negro Spirituals

0-­‐3 years
post high school
23

10 minutes

All

Three American Negro Spirituals contrasting by composer, tempo and text.
*See publications list

18 Fourth/Fifth Year College Age and Graduate Age
American Negro Spirituals

4+ years
post high school
30 12 minutes All

Four American Negro Spirituals contrasting by composer, tempo and text.
*See publications list


All interested performers will apply for this category as part of regional student auditions with the top five regional singers advancing to the NSA rounds as with all other NSA-eligible categories. Chapters are also eligible and encouraged to add this competition to chapter auditions. Where applicable Chapter auditions serve as qualifying rounds for advancement into region auditions.

 

Intermezzo