To Understand and Sing Spirituals & Gospels – Paul A. Smith
From 26th to 27th August 2005 in the Zavod sv. Stanislava in Ljubljana there was a two-day seminar "To understand and sing spirituals & gospels". On this occasion the Saint Nicholas choir invited Mr. Paul A. Smith from USA. He is a renowned world-wide expert on african-american spiritual music. Seminar co-organizer was the JSKD (Republic of Slovenia Public Fund for Cultural Activities).
Some 100 participants, mostly teachers, conductors, singers and those who take interest in gospel and spiritual music, attended the seminar. The lecturer Paul Smith emphasized topics like the history of african-american spiritual music, the differences between a gospel and spiritual, musical characteristics today and on performance practice.
The seminar was concluded with a concert in the St. Nicholas church in Litija, where the study repertory was presented to a broader public.
"After two years of wait it finally happened… three extraordinary days with Paul Smith. Reemerging of old wishes, ideas, requests, hope… Old time religion… Being aware of the fact that music is the way to express your true self. That you can show joy, sadness – just to be with you,… community… that your are unison – a soloist and that each of us sings in a distinctive way, enriched harmonies – divine vibrations… that a word can hurt more than a gun - I promise I won't hurt you with words of my mouth, because I love you… When there is no bitterness and doubt, only joy and eternal serenity… That I need you to survive… Halelujah indeed."
Paul A. Smith – the lecturer
How do you compare your work with the Zbor sv. Nikolaja with other choirs around the world?
I believe they did a fine job, like any of my previous choirs. I have to commend them for having been extremely well prepared for this seminar – It allowed us to concentrate more on singing itself and on the origin of each piece and its meaning. They were willing to try new things and integrate new ideas. I am grateful they accepted this seminar in a positive way – recently I experienced a completely different welcome.
Were you pleased with the seminar results?
I have to admit they tried very hard to share the gospel & spiritual experience with me. They performed some pieces more, some less successfully. The biggest problem was the explanation of self-confidence that is the ability to trust in yourself and believe that you can sing without restraints or notes. So I wish to the singers many more note-free experiences.
What is your reaction on such a large audience at the concert in Litija?
I was moved to see all the people stand during the entire concert without complaints. I'm sure the reasons for this are numerous and I see it as a big compliment to music and the StZbor sv. Nikolaja. But in the end I have to commend the party after the concert, which in my eyes reflected the true beat of the community that in today's world cannot be found easily.
Paul A. Smith began his music career early as a young piano student of the late African-American pianist/ composer, Margaret Bonds. His formal education has included an undergraduate degree from Chapman University; a Master's degree from the University of Southern California; and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music at the University of Southern California.
Performing since age 16, he has toured internationally with noted American ensembles. For the past 15 years, he has served as Assistant director of the Albert McNeil Jubilee singers. Paul Smith has appeared in concert with the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City. He also serves as Artistic Director of the William Grant Still Chorale, an organization receiving recognition for its collaborative performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Master Chorale of Los Angeles. Conducting workshops and reading sessions at conventions of educators, P. Smith most recently held roundtable discussions on multi-cultural issues at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) conferences.
Currently, he serves as Assistant professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities on the California State University.