UB to Kick Off Buffalo's 1998 Juneteenth Festival With Concert And Smithsonian Exhibit

Release Date: May 22, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The 1998 Juneteenth Festival, Buffalo's 23rd annual celebration of African-American history and culture, will open this year with an exhibition and concert at the University at Buffalo.

"Wade in the Water," the nationally acclaimed Smithsonian traveling exhibition that explores the profound effect that African-American sacred music traditions have had, not only on black Americans, but on cultures worldwide, will open on June 12. The exhibition will be on display through July 26 in the University Gallery in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.

It will be sponsored by the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, the UB Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Urban Affairs and the UB Dean of Arts and Letters.

Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Free campus parking is available after 3 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.

During the Juneteenth Festival, which will take place June 13-14 in Martin Luther King Park, free bus trips sponsored by the Office of Public Service and Urban Affairs will shuttle passengers between the park and the UB exhibit.

In connection with the exhibit, the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Urban Affairs will sponsor a concert of African-American sacred music, also titled "Wade in the Water," at 7:30 p.m. June 12 in Slee Concert Hall on the North Campus.

The concert will feature well-known area gospel groups including New Beginnings, as well as choirs from First Shiloh Baptist Church, Our Savior Lutheran Church and others. It will be free and open to the public.

Honorary co-chairs of the exhibition and concert are UB President William R. Greiner; William Siener, executive director of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and Marcus O. Brown, president of the Juneteenth Festival Board of Directors.

Information on the 1998 Juneteenth Festival, the exhibition and concert along with links to the Smithsonian Institution, the national Juneteenth home page and other Web sites pertaining to African-American history and culture can be found at http://wings.buffalo.edu/wade.

Friday, June 12 o 7:30 p.m. o Slee Concert Hall o UB North Campus

"Wade in the Water," a concert of African-American sacred music, will be at 7:30 p.m. in Slee Concert Hall on the North (Amherst) Campus.

The concert program will be constructed around the principal themes of the exhibition, which include the spiritual, Pentecostal, gospel and quartet traditions of African-American sacred music. The concert will include a performance of African dance by the Children's Performance Group of the African American Cultural Center. Solo performers will include Ella Robinson and the New Beginnings Choir of Our Savior Lutheran Church, and the choirs and ensembles of First Shiloh Baptist Church .

The performance will open with a welcome by UB President William R. Greiner. The program will be introduced and narrated by James Harris, superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools and himself a musician.

During the program, Mary Gresham, UB interim vice president for public service and urban affairs, will present a commemorative plaque to the Buffalo Juneteenth committee on behalf of the university.

Sponsored by the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, the UB Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Urban Affairs and UB Dean of Arts and Letters. Presented in connection with Buffalo's 23rd annual Juneteenth Festival.

This highly praised, multimedia exhibition, developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the National Museum of American History, is on a four-year, 16-city tour of the U.S.

"Wade in the Water" explores such sacred traditions as spirituals, hymns, Pentecostal shout-singing, brass-band worship services and gospel music. It looks at how these musical forms were used to commemorate historical events and help slaves survive and resist the trauma of enslavement.

It also examines the development of the spiritual concert traditions, the African-American quartet tradition and the pioneering efforts of African-American composers and performers who brought this repertoire to college campuses and working-class neighborhoods, recording studios, and national and international concert halls.

A multimedia display incorporated into the exhibition evokes the atmosphere of churches, concert halls and other music-filled gathering places in which African-Americans have traditionally sung and worshipped.

Illustrated with text, archival video and audio presentations, vintage photographs, early record albums and sheet music, and large-scale cutouts and maps, the exhibition illustrates the ways in which the legacy of music played and sung during slavery and the worship practices of black-American churches contributed to African-American heritage and became a worldwide cultural force.

The exhibition was curated by Bernice Johnson Reagon, Distinguished Professor of History at American University and a pre-eminent historian of African-American culture. Reagon is curator emeritus at the National Museum of American History and the recipient of a MacArthur grant, often referred to as a "genius grant." She also is the founder of the internationally acclaimed a cappella quintet Sweet Honey in the Rock.

The "Wade in the Water" exhibition is one element of a broader project developed by Reagon to increase public understanding of African-American sacred music and its worldwide cultural impact. Other components include a 26-part Peabody Award-winning radio series of the same title that aired on 300 National Public Radio-affiliated stations in 1994, a series of books on African-American sacred music traditions and several compact discs and tapes.

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