University of Illinois Black Chorus performs at Rockford church Jan. 18

Online Staff Report

Dr. Ollie Watts Davis and the celebrated University of Illinois Black Chorus will be the guests of the New Zion Baptist Church at 11 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 18. The public is invited, and this event is free, although an offering will be taken during the service.

New Zion Baptist Church is at 604 Salter Ave., Rockford, and can be reached at (815) 964-3114 or online at

Dr. Ollie Watts Davis is professor of voice at the University of Illinois. Since making her New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1990, soprano Ollie Watts Davis has appeared with many leading symphony orchestras, including those in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas and Milwaukee. She has also performed in roles with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Opera Theatre of Springfield. She has released two musical recordings, one conducting the UI Black Chorus, and one singing arrangements of Negro Spirituals for solo voice and piano. Dr. Davis has also written two books, Talks My Mother Never Had with Me: Helping the Young Female Transition to Womanhood and Talks My Mother Never Had With Me: A Loving Mother’s Perspective for Young Women, which targets elementary-age girls.

According to Pastor K. Edward Copeland, an alumnus of the university and the choir: “This is the first time this renowned choir has come to the Rockford area. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs from a wide range of expressions within the black sacred music tradition.”

The Black Chorus at the University of Illinois was founded in 1968. Organized by four students, and later under the direction of School of Music faculty with student officers, the Black Chorus has sustained a high level of excellence in performance, collaborating with writers, jazz and gospel musicians, chamber orchestra and dancers.

A large mixed-voice choral ensemble, the Black Chorus performs the music of black Americans. With repertoire ranging from African chant, field hollers, Negro spirituals, anthems, traditional and contemporary gospel to jazz, soul, blues, and rhythm and blues, the Black Chorus is highly sought after. Often serving as “student ambassadors” of the university through performances at high- profile events both on and off campus, the Black Chorus has performed for commencement, President’s Awards Day, UI Foundation events, UI Advancement events, Office of Equal Opportunity and Access events, the UI Presidential Inauguration, and events commemorating the tragedy of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, the Black Chorus performed the world premiere of “Refuge,” a cantata, commissioned for the 10th Anniversary 9/11 Memorial Concert at the University of Illinois.

Posted Jan. 16, 2015

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