About the Ensemble

“Songs that soothe the soul”
describes the traditional African American spiritual, which forms the New England Spiritual Ensemble’s repertoire and frames its mission. Gospel which evolved from the traditional spirituals, can be more exuberant, but nothing touches the depths of the soul or connects with its yearnings more than the spirituals. Although not all of us learned them at the knee of a grandmother, the spirituals are part of the cultural experience of all of us – a uniquely American musical tradition born of suffering but infused with unshakable hope.

The Boston-based New England Spiritual Ensemble was founded in 1994 by Vincent Dion Stringer, Myran Parker-Brass and Beverly Mosby. The members of the ensemble are conservatory trained professional musicians who are exceptional communicators – their performances are captivating and totally engrossing, always involving the audience emotionally. The ensemble is devoted to “preserving the art and tradition of Negro spirituals” and is modeled after the classically trained Fisk Jubilee Singers who, in the late nineteenth century, enthralled Europe with their renditions of spirituals. Although all members of the New England Spiritual Ensemble sing professionally, some also pursue other professional activities – one is a district court judge, one a professor of psychology, one the director of education for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and several teachers of music at schools in New England.

The New England Spiritual Ensemble has continued to build and expand their work in the preservation of the tradition of American Negro spirituals by developing and sponsoring conferences, the latest, a “Celebration of Negro Spirituals” in October 2007 included an afternoon symposium and evening concert which brought together scholars, performers and high school and college students to broaden the discussion on the importance of the tradition. The ensemble has created a “junior” ensemble of high school singers who are learning the repertoire as well as the history and perform with the ensemble throughout the year. The ensemble is also developing a comprehensive curriculum resource for high school teachers and piloted this curriculum at the Boston Arts Academy summer institute in July 2008 for 100 teachers from across the country.

The New England Spiritual Ensemble has been heard nationally on “CBS Sunday Morning”, on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today”, is the subject of several public television features, and has toured nationally and internationally. Its first recording, “Comin Up Shouting”, features the arrangements of spirituals and works of John Andrew Ross. The music critic of the Boston Globe pronounced the ensemble “excellent….blessed with performers who own good voices….daringly expressive”, and reported that the performance “brought a hush to the hall”.

Click here to read The Bay State Banner article on the NESE.