The Cambridge Faculty of Music and St. Catharine’s College are very pleased to welcome dynamic choral director, eclectic scholar, and passionate performer Alexander Douglas to Cambridge. On Thursday, 6 Feb. from 7:00pm-9:00pm, Douglas will teach a gospel choir workshop in St. Catharine’s College chapel. At 9:30pm, Douglas will direct singers from the workshop in singing a gospel Compline service. Singers of any background and level (ages fifteen and over) are welcome to participate.
Douglas describes his career as one that “triangulates across the very different spheres of professional music-making and church ministry”: he is equally comfortable as a conductor, composer and performer of various jazz, world, gospel, and Western choral styles. Alex has studied choral conducting at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and ethnomusicology at SOAS and currently serves at the Advisor for Music and Worship Ministries of the North England Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists. His ability to speak fluently many musical languages enables him to introduce them to performers from variety of backgrounds.
Though Douglas’s musical experience is eclectic, gospel music has always occupied a central place in his life and work. For Douglas, gospel music is powerful because it is culturally and religiously rooted and yet appeals beyond cultural and religious boundaries: ‘Gospel music somehow manages to be both deeply culturally rooted but also culturally transcendent… Despite the role that culture plays in gospel music, it is also intrinsically grounded in Christian spirituality in ways that make it especially important to Christians of more than one denomination and of many races. But it also provides a way for non-Christians to connect to some part of themselves that may be less easily described in words but is no less real.’
The gospel choir workshop emerged as part of ‘Interpreting Gospel Music,’ a second-year Cambridge Music Tripos course taught by Dr Monique Ingalls. In Ingalls’ gospel music course, students study diverse styles of gospel music—from 19th-Century gospel hymnody, to Civil Rights-era African American gospel, to Trinidadian ‘gospelypso’—as a way to understand social, cultural, and religious change. ‘Performing in a gospel choir will be an excellent way for my students to gain an embodied understanding of the music they’ve studied throughout the term,’ Ingalls notes. Douglas will also be working with Dr Edward Wickham, Director of Music at St. Catharine’s College and founder and director of The Clerks. Douglas will give a lecture-demonstration of gospel choir directing to Wickham’s master’s students in choral conducting.
The gospel choir workshop will be appropriate for singers of all backgrounds, whether gospel fans or gospel novices. It is one of the array of performance offerings available to the Cambridge community in the Faculty of Music’s Lent Term 2014 event programme.