Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Spirituals Project documentary debuts at DU

The people who show up Feb. 9 can be the first to tell the world they’ve seen the documentary, I Can Tell the World.

The film, which focuses on the Spirituals Project, will pre-screen at 6:30 that evening in Sturm Hall’s Davis Auditorium.

Founded by DU Clinical Professor Art Jones in 1998, the Spirituals Project is committed to preserving and revitalizing the music, which gave rise to blues, jazz and rhythm and blues.

The spirituals — not to be confused with gospel or other Christian music — are defined as the religious folk songs created by African-American slaves. Famous spirituals include “Wade in the Water,” “Go Down Moses” and “This Little Light of Mine.”

Produced and co-directed by Coleen Hubbard and Larry Bograd, the film follows members of the Spirituals Project Choir, an interracial, multigenerational ensemble committed to the preservation and performance of African-American spirituals.

“We basically used the choir and the stories of their members to talk about the history of this music, why these individual people are drawn to it and what singing it in a multiracial choir can tell us about race and reconciliation and healing and transformation,” Bograd says.

In addition to following choir members, the documentary includes rarely seen performances by Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, and the observations of African-American scholars.

After the documentary, there will be a panel discussion featuring filmmakers Bograd and Hubbard and founder Art Jones.

“Our main goal with the panel is to respond to questions that viewers have about the film, and about the Spirituals Project,” Jones says. “We’re prepared to take the conversation wherever it goes naturally.”

The film airs on Rocky Mountain PBS on Feb. 11.


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