Call for Concert Choral Choirs: Specializing in the Negro Spiritual




DCA’s Leimert Park Cultural Hub


Jan 12, 2024 - 12:00 am




For application inquiries please contact:, with AAHM 2024: The Negro Spiritual in the subject line.

African American Heritage Month 2024

The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) Performing Arts Division (PERF) will commission two (2) professional concert choral groups to perform at the Los Angeles Association of Black Personnel’s (LAABP) Celebration of African American Heritage Month.

A black-tie event, LAABP honors City of Los Angeles employees with the coveted Trailblazer, Career Development and Scholarship Awards, as well as installs newly elected officers to its Executive Board. The annual celebration also includes sumptuous fare and stellar entertainment.

The two choirs will perform a cappella in the opening, midway and closing selections of the program in the Los Angeles City Hall Forecourt, 200 N. Spring Street on Thursday February 29, 2024 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and will alternate throughout the evening.

Each choral ensemble, selected by peer-panel-review, will receive a commission of $5,000 per choir. Their respective artistic directors will each receive $1,000. Funded through DCA’s Leimert Park Cultural Hub, awards may take up to 90 days to process payment after the performance is completed.

The deadline to apply is Friday January 12, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Please submit applications via email to AAHM 2024: The Negro Spiritual at


The Los Angeles Association of Black Personnel (LAABP) was created during Mayor Tom Bradley’s tenure. Mayor Bradley advocated and implemented decisive measures to ensure equal employment opportunities within the City’s workforce for African-Americans. LAABP works to enhance its 700+ members careers by providing career development seminars, mentorship, mock interviews, networking opportunities and nearly $200,000 in scholarships and career development grants since 2003. LAABP’s motto, “Together we can accomplish what none of us can do alone!”

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Spirituals (also known as Negro spirituals, African American spirituals, Black spirituals, or spiritual music) is a genre of Christian music that is associated with African Americans, which merged sub-Saharan African cultural heritage with the experiences of being held in bondage in slavery, at first during the transatlantic slave trade and for centuries afterwards, through the domestic slave trade. Spirituals encompass the “sing songs,” work songs, and plantation songs that evolved into the blues and gospel songs in church.

In the nineteenth century, the word “spirituals” referred to all these subcategories of folk songs. While they were often rooted in biblical stories, they also described the extreme hardships endured by African Americans who were enslaved from the 17th century until the 1860s, the emancipation altering mainly the nature (but not continuation) of slavery for many. Many new derivative music genres emerged from the spirituals songcraft.

Prior to the end of the US Civil War and emancipation, spirituals were originally an oral tradition passed from one slave generation to the next. Biblical stories were memorized then translated into song. Following emancipation, the lyrics of spirituals were published in printed form. Ensembles such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers—established in 1871—popularized spirituals, bringing them to a wider, even international, audience.


Frederick Douglass, an American slave and great orator, described slave songs as telling a “tale which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones, loud, long and deep, breathing the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains… Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds.”

Hansonia Caldwell, the author of African American music, spirituals: the fundamental communal music of Black Americans and African American music: a chronology: 1619–1995, said that spirituals “sustained Africans when they were enslaved.” She described them as “code songs”…”Go Down Moses referred to Harriet Tubman – that was her nickname—so that when they heard that song, they knew she was coming to the area. I often call the spiritual an omnibus term. They used to sing songs as they worked in the fields. In the church, it evolved into the gospel song. In the fields, it became the blues.”

William Francis Allen, one of the co-compilers of the “Slave Songbook”, traced the “development of Negro Spirituals and cultural connections to Africa”. Spirituals were originally oral, but by 1867 the first publication included spirituals that were well-known and regularly sung in American churches, but whose origins in plantations had not been acknowledged.

James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson said that spirituals, which are “purely and solely the creation” of African Americans, represent “America’s only type of folk music…When it came to the use of words, the maker of the song was struggling as best he could under his limitations in language and, perhaps, also under a misconstruction or misapprehension of the facts in his source of material, generally the Bible.”

Arthur C. Jones founded, “The Spirituals Project”, to preserve and revitalize the “music and teachings of the sacred folk songs called spirituals, created and first sung by African Americans in slavery”. Spirituals were created by a “circumscribed community of people in bondage”, over time they became known as the first “signature” music of the United States. Forbidden to speak their native languages, they generally converted to Christianity. With narrow vocabularies, they used the words they did know to translate biblical information and facts from their other sources into song.


Fisk Jubilee Singers
Hampton Singers
Tuskegee Institute Quartet

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A complete application consists of submitting the required documentation by January 12, 2024, 11:59, with AAHM 2024: The Negro Spiritual in the subject line.

Application Materials

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