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July 7, 2010

Chorale founder Brazeal Dennard enriched lives with music

Detroit Free Press

Brazeal Dennard brought the refined ear of a master musician and the knowledge of a musicologist when he conducted the Brazeal Dennard Chorale, the 50-voice choir that he founded in 1972. Few musicians knew more about the history of African-American spirituals and few could shape performances of these sorrow songs and shouts with more grace, feeling and expressive vocal blend.

Dennard, who died Monday at age 81 at his Detroit home after a long illness, was a man of many accomplishments. He had a significant career as a teacher and administrator in the Detroit Public Schools. He co-founded Classical Roots, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s annual celebration of African-American composers and musicians. He built a nationally recognized choir admired for its professionalism and wide repertoire, including works by contemporary black composers and masterpieces by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and others. He also founded a youth chorale in 1985.

But his greatest calling was the preservation of spirituals, the religious folksongs of African-American slaves, which he championed through performances, recordings, workshops, guest conducting, published arrangements, articles, historical research and the dialogue he maintained for decades with choral directors and singers throughout the country.

“It was not only that he had that knowledge, but he also had the willingness to impart it to others with the hope that they would understand the importance of the music and how relevant it was not only to the past but to the present and to carry it into the future,” said Augustus Hill, who succeeded Dennard as artistic director of the chorale. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at July 7, 2010 12:01 AM

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