When it comes to entertainment on stage, many people enjoy music that is fun and culturally enriching.
The only thing better than that is music that is fun, culturally enriching and free of charge in this tough economy.
Indianapolis will have a chance to experience that gift when the highly acclaimed Central State University Chorus arrives at the Madame Walker Theatre on Monday, March 30 at 7 p.m.
The Grammy-nominated chorus, under the direction of conductor William Henry Caldwell, is known for presenting a fulfilling variety of music from all periods and styles, from traditional African-American spirituals to jazz and contemporary gospel. It represents the famed Central State University, a Historically Black College and University located in Wilberforce, Ohio.
The visit to Indianapolis is the last stop of a successful national tour this month.
“We have students who graduated from several high schools in our city, so we are looking forward to them coming and giving a performance here at home,” said Dave Simms, a spokesman for the Central State Alumni Association.
One of those students, Christopher Griffin, is in his first year at Central State University and has enjoyed singing with the chorus tremendously.
“I’m honored because not all freshmen get to go on tour,” said Griffin, a graduate of T.C. Howe Academy. “It’s a lot of work getting things just right for our performances, but we also have a lot of fun and get to see many different cities.”
Indianapolis resident Kim Winters has fond memories of her time with the chorus during the 80s, as it became one of the most popular HBCU ensembles.
“It was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Winters said. “The conductor works well with the singers, and I think that shows in the quality of the performances.”
Caldwell, who has been the conductor for 31 years, enjoys fostering the musical development of the students.
“It is always wonderful watching them embrace new styles of music, and even their attitude changes as they learn how to conduct themselves in environments where you have to dress a certain way and behave with dignity,” Caldwell said.
The Central State University Chorus, which has launched the careers of famous singers such as Leontyne Price and Nancy Wilson, has become well known to audiences throughout the world.
The chorus gained national exposure when it performed in Washington D.C. during the 30th anniversary celebration for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Central State University Chorus performs annually with various orchestras and for the Ohio legislature, and has taken a tour of Europe. It returned there in 2007 to sing in Great Britain, France and at the Vatican in Italy for Pope Benedict XVI.
Over the years the group has appeared with celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Albertina Walker, Tremaine Hawkins and Vaclac Nelhybel.
Griffin is already excited about going on the road next school year.
“I can’t think of a better way to close out the tour than to sing in Indianapolis,” Griffin said. “It’s going to be a great evening.”