Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble will sing Saturday at Trinity UMC in Sumter

BY IVY MOORE
Features contributor
Posted 7/31/19

Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble will present its 13th- annual Sumter concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Trinity United Methodist Church. Titled "The Freedom of the Spirit Lifts Us All," the concert is free to the public.

The choir recently …

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Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble will sing Saturday at Trinity UMC in Sumter

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Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble will present its 13th- annual Sumter concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Trinity United Methodist Church. Titled "The Freedom of the Spirit Lifts Us All," the concert is free to the public.

The choir recently changed its name to add "'Spiritual Ensemble' to make it more in line with our main purpose," said ensemble director Sonja Sepulveda. The group's mission is to perform and educate students on the African-American spiritual and to preserve the legacy of the genre.

The choir comprises past students of Sepulveda at Sumter High School and students from other schools where she has taught, as well as several singers from other vocal ensembles. They travel from their homes across the country to rehearse in Sumter.

Palmetto Voices came into being in 2006, when Sepulveda was working on her dissertation on the spiritual at the University of South Carolina. When the vocal ensemble of USC graduate students "couldn't quite get the 'feel,' just couldn't understand the style and power of the spiritual," Sepulveda said recently, she enlisted the help of former students Herbert Johnson and Amanda Ragin. They assembled about 40 singers, who sang with the USC choir. Thus began Palmetto Voices.

While the spiritual is the group's main focus, the singers do mix in several other musical genres, including classical and gospel.

During the past 12 years, the Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble has performed extensively both in the U.S. and abroad. The ensemble has performed in many prestigious venues and festivals, and Sepulveda's choirs have toured Europe, Mexico and Canada and have performed at the National Cathedral, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, South Carolina Music Educators Association, National and Southern American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, Lincoln Center and many others. In addition, renowned composers of the spiritual, including Moses Hogan, have worked with and written spirituals for Sepulveda's choirs.

Accolades and honors continue to accrue for the Palmetto Voices. Sepulveda said, "We have been invited to sing at the Southern Division American Choral Director's Conference in Mobile, Alabama, March 10-14. It is considered one of the highest honors in the nation, and we have been chosen as one of the best 20 choirs in the 11 southern states that make up the Southern Division. Cane Bay High School, under the direction of William Bennett from Charleston, will also be performing as one of those 20 choirs."

Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble will present a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 226 W. Liberty St., Sumter. The public is invited to attend. Admission is free, and a love offering will be accepted.

Hear and see the Palmetto Voices' performance of "Deep River" at the 2013 National American Choral Directors Conference in Dallas, Texas, on YouTube at https://is.gd/SQ0434.