Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers: Bio

About the Music

The repertory of The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers is focused on the rich genre of African-American music known as Negro Spirituals. The arranged spiritual became known in the Winter of 1870 when an intrepid group of 11 singers -- seven women and four men -- representing the newly-established Fisk University in Nashville appeared at the Court of St. James in London. Queen Victoria's immediate acceptance helped this a cappella four-part singing by an ensemble of students to become known worldwide as a creative religious music evoking a deep sense of personal spiritual fervor.

The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers

The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, a traveling company of 12 to 18, a resident group of 29, have garnered international acclaim and focused worldwide attention on the vast body of folk music termed "African-American."

 Forty-seven years ago (1968) the Singers undertook their first European tour. Today, after 18 sold-out European tours, 12 tours of the United States and Canada, tours of the Middle and Far East, Africa and South America, they are among the most honored singing ensembles in the world. They were selected three times to serve the U.S. State Department and USIS Cultural Exchange Program in areas of the world, known in those days as "behind the Iron Curtain," including East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Iran, India, North and West Africa, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

 Founder-Director Albert McNeil is well-known to the national choral community, having been honored on four occasions with "Command Performances" before the prestigious American Choral Directors Association in 1981 in New Orleans, in 1985 at their Salt Lake City convention at their convention and their 1997 convention in San Diego, California at Los Angles during the ACDA Western Division Convention held on the campus of Loyola-Marymount University campus. The Jubilee Singers were invited to sing for Pope John Paul II during his visit to the singers’ home-base Los Angeles in 1987. The Singers were headliners at the First Choral Festival in Jaffe (yafo), Israel, in April, 1988. In 1989, on Martin Luther King Sunday, they performed with the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the program aired by CBS Radio and Television. They have had collaborative concerts with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Dale Warland Singers, Chanticleer, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and Pro Musica of El Paso. In the summer of 1992, The Singers made their first Far East Tour of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. That season they went on to Spain to complete concerts at the XXIII Semana de Musica de Camara in Segovia, in the Real Coliseo Carlos III in El Escorial, performing not only their regular fare of Spirituals, but the Siglo de Oro Espanol (Renaissance music of Victoria and Morales).

 

The Singers completed a six-week tour of Europe during the winter of 1993 and culminated their Winter Concert Season with a performance in the Auditorium of the Ambassador College, Pasadena. Fall, 1993, found the Singers performing in the Midwestern U.S. and Toronto, Canada. The Winter Tour, 1994, took them to their first presentation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and their first in the Caribbean.

 The choir was heard via National Public Radio on the series "Beverly Sills Presents", a live two-hour broadcast of their concert in the Ambassador Auditorium, and shortly after on The Smithsonian's twenty-six-week series "Wade in the Water."

 During its 1995 Winter Tour of the east coast, the Singers made their debut at The Kennedy Center, January 26, 1995. The singers continued on to complete an eight-week tour of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and France, stopping to perform in Paris' historic Eglise Saint Germain, Des Pres, Munich's Herkulessaal, Monte Carlo's Concert Hall, and Bremen's St. Petri Dom (before 2,000 cheering enthusiasts). The Singers completed tours of the U.S., Italy and Spain in the winter and spring of 1996. In August, 1996, they were featured in The International Choral Festival in Taipei, Taiwan. The Singers are so popular in Japan that they appeared there successively in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, and returned in the fall of 2002.

 In 1997, David Brubeck, recently converted to the Roman Catholic Church, was commissioned to compose a special work commemorating the 100th anniversary celebration of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, California. Brubeck chose the ancient Gregorian chant “Pange Lingua” as the basis of this new twenty-two minute work. The selection required a mass choir, and Dr. Albert McNeil, then Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis, was asked to perform the work, still in manuscript, for the two-day celebration. McNeil used the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, the newly organized Sacramento Symphony Chorus, the Sacramento Chorale, and selected members of the University Chorus from University of California, Davis, to accompany the famed Brubeck Quintet in the performance of this exciting new work.

 Early in 1998, the Singers performed in concert version excerpts from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess with the Honolulu Symphony, returning to Honolulu after an exciting tour of the Big Island of Hawaii, and Kauai, to a sold-out audience in the recently renovated Hawaii Theatre. During their winter tour, they were invited to record a program for the award-winning radio program "Saint Paul Sunday Morning" aired via National Public Radio and heard in virtually every state in the country. The program generated hundreds of letters from across the country and Canada. The Men of the Jubilee Singers appeared on New Year's Eve,

 1998, before a worldwide TV audience emanating from Shanghai, China, and heralding China's greeting of the new millennium. In January, 1999, the Singers appeared in Carnegie Hall for Mid-America Productions where they sang works by Nunes-Garcia and Lawrence Farrow. They returned in the spring of 1999 to Argentina and Uruguay for a series of concerts. The season 1999 concluded with their fourth tour of Japan and finally Europe (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland). During the 1999 European tour, they performed in Austria's prestigious Mozarteum (Saltzburg) and Switzerland's new concert hall in Zurich, the Kultureise. Spring, 2000, they completed yet another tour of Spain with a major concert in the National Recital Hall, Madrid. In July, 2000, they gave a major performance in the John Anson Ford Theatre, Los Angeles, and were invited again to represent North America in Taipei, Taiwan, at the International Choral Festival. They performed for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and the Montgomery County Community College in February, 2001. The 2000-2001 season concluded with performances in St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, Bethel College in Newton, Kansas, and concert performances of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess with the Pasadena "Pops" Orchestra, Pasadena, California. The 2001-2002 season opened with a tour of Brazil in November, 2001, with major performances in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Rio. In January 2002, the Singers began an East Coast Tour commencing in Philadelphia and ending in Atlanta’s Spivey Hall (on the Clayton State College Campus). Despite the cold of March, 2002 the Singers began a three-week tour in Denver and performed in seven mid-western states (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota) In October, the Singers returned to Japan for their fifth tour of the land of the rising sun. A return to Spain in November 2002, closed the season with return performances in The National Recital Hall, Madrid; Barcelona’s Palau de Musica, and a debut performance in Las Palmas’ magnificent concert hall on the Gran Canarias, one of the seven islands in the Canary Islands over seven hundred miles off the coast of Morocco.

 The year 2003 began with run-out concerts to Northern Arizona State University, Flagstaff, and Northern Oklahoma Nazarene University, Bethany, Oklahoma, and a performance at El Camino College, Torrance, of William Grant Still’s rarely performed “And They Lynched Him on a Tree”. The Singers returned to Spain in July to participate in two major festivals in Nerja (Malaga), and Ciudadela (on the island of Menorca). A tour of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg was completed in November-December, 2003.

 The ACDA Western Division honored both the Jubilee Singers and Dr. McNeil in “command performances” at their Las Vegas Convention in February, 2004. In May, 2004, McNeil and the Jubilee Singers were headliners at an International Choral Festival held in Caracas, Venezuela.

 The American Embassy in Caracas provided supporting funds so that the Jubilee Singers could represent the United States at this International Choral Forum. (See McNeil’s biog for updated material). 2006 ended with a 13-city tour of Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. The Jubilee Singers will make their debut in Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 4, 2007 and will join the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a west coast premiere of Mary Lou Williams’ “Mass.” The San Francisco Symphony Association has invited the Jubilee Singers to perform in Davies Hall for three successive years: 2005, 2006, and 2007 (before 2,700) during the Christmas Season. The Ensemble returned to Europe in the fall of 2008 and opened their 14-day tour with a major performance in Berlin in the famed Philharmonie.

 2009 marks the fortieth anniversary of the Singers: concerts during the year celebrated this achievement with concerts commencing at San Diego’s First Methodist Church and including subsequent presentations in-, Thousand Oaks ‘s Ascension Lutheran Church, Valencia's First Methodist Church (sponsored by the Santa Clarita Master Chorale), and culminating mid-year with a gala concert at the Colburn School Of Music’s Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The anniversary of Singers reached a climax on November 1, 09 with a Reunion Concert in the beautiful St. Bernadette Church. The highlight of the afternoon was the combined singing of over 110 former members of the Jubilee Singers. Christmas Eve, 09 the Jubilees represented the County of Los Angeles in their annual marathon event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (Music Center) televised nationwide.

 Of signal importance in March 2010, the Jubilees made their debut in the Avery Fisher Hall Lincoln Center, New York before a capacity audience, and returned to be headliners are the Mark Thallander Annual Choral Festival in the Cathedral of the Angels downtown Los Angeles. On Sunday January 30, 2011, the Jubilee Singers presented the west coast performance of Linda Twine's cantata "Changed My Name", the dramatic story of the lives of Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth.

 In January 2012, the singers joined soprano, Kathleen Battle (at UCLA's Royce Hall) in an evening of Spirituals. Also, the Jubilee Singers performed as headliners in the Jalisco Canta choral festival in Guadalajara, Mexico.

During 2013 the singers joined the South Bay Children's Choir in a program of American folk music at Marsee Auditorium, El Camino College. "Changed My Name", a cantata by Linda Twine, was repeated in concert at the First Presbyterian Church of Pasadena. October the singers presented a workshop of music from the African Diaspora at University Southern California. The Hour of Power, a well known television program covering much of the of the English speaking world, featured the Jubilee Singers at the program's new location Shepherds Grove church: this was a part of their pre-Christmas programming.

Early in 2015, The Singers premiered "Bridges," a musical reenactment celebrating the 50th anniversary of the "March to Selma."  A capacity audience was present in Baldwin Hills' Saint Bernadette, Catholic Church.

 

Dr. Albert McNeil - Founder/ Director-Emeritus

Albert McNeil is a native Californian -- born in Los Angeles. He earned Bachelor and Master degrees at the University of California, Los Angeles, and did his doctoral studies at the University of Southern California, the Westminster Choir College of Princeton, and the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He is presently Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California at Davis, where he was Director of Choral Activities for 21 years and headed the Music Education Program. Simultaneous with the Davis period, he taught Ethnomusicology at the University of Southern California for 12 years. Prior to his University teaching, McNeil taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 17 years beginning at the elementary level and including junior highs, and ended his tenure in the district at the Susan Miller Dorsey High School where he headed a multi-school program known as APEX, Area Project for Educational Exchange involving five High Schools in a unique federally funded experimental program with each high school specializing in unique course offerings.

The McNeil Jubilee Singers ensemble is his creation, and he has dedicated himself to upholding a choral tradition of excellence with the presentation of the concert spiritual and the ever-increasing contributions of African American Composers of Concert Music, Opera, and theatre music. Under his direction, the group, now in its 40th year, has performed in over 70 countries, including Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, and North and West Africa. During the summer of 1997 they completed their third tour of South America after numerous transcontinental tours of the U.S., Hawaii, and Canada.

In addition to his work at the University and conducting the Jubilee Singers, Professor McNeil has been an author and editor on a series of music education textbooks for Silver-Burdett-Ginn Publishing Company. He co-authored an educational packet for Bowman Publishing Company as well. His arrangements can be found in the Gentry and Lawson-Gould catalogues.

McNeil was been called out of retirement in Spring, 2007 as acting Director of Choral Activities at the University of California, Davis. He is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician and is often invited to conduct "honor choirs" throughout the United States and abroad. In January 1993, he was a Headliner at the Eleventh Annual Federation for Choral Music in Seoul, Korea, and in August, 1993, he presented the sessions on African American Spirituals and Art Songs at the World Symposium on Choral Music in Vancouver B.C. He repeated similar sessions with his Jubilee Singers in Rotterdam in July, 1999. In July 1994, he was Guest Conductor at the DeKalb International Choral Festival held at Stone Mountain, Georgia. In 1995, he conducted the World Youth Choir in their 1995 tour of Canada and North America and in November of 1995 he was appointed vocal director/conductor of the 40th Annual Christmas Candlelight Procession at Disneyland. In August of 1996, he and his Jubilee Singers were among the five choirs appearing at the International Choral Festival in Taipei, Taiwan. He returned with his Jubilee Singers in July, 2000, as Lecturer and Conductor. He is Guest Conductor on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "An American Heritage of Spirituals”, a CD released in January 1997. January, 1998, the Singers made their first tour of the Hawaiian Islands, with special performances with the Honolulu Symphony of the concert version of "Porgy and Bess" and a command performance in the recently renovated Hawaii Theatre. He followed this engagement with sessions as Guest Director and Lecturer with the Canadian Choral Conductors in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A year later, January, 1999, McNeil made his debut in Carnegie Hall with the Jubilee Singers and choruses from Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. McNeil's guest conducting assignments during 1999-2000 included the Holland Festival (Michigan), the Heartland Chamber Ensemble (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), as headliner before the Choral Conductor's Guild Convention 2000 (Pasadena, CA), Association of Church Musicians and the Schola Cantorum (Palo Alto, CA). McNeil's second performance in Carnegie Hall (June, 2001) featured the music of Jester Hairston and celebrated the late composer's 100th birthday with a choir of 219 singers from throughout California. He was one of the conductors who appeared with the 300-voice Children's Choir at the Des Moines International Children's Choral Festival, known also, as "Song Burst!", July 4 - 7, 2001. McNeil appeared as a presenter at America Cantat IV (a collaborative Choral experience involving hundreds of choirs from the Western Hemisphere) held in Mexico City April 5 – 14, 2004 and under the supervision of Fundacion Coral Mexico, A.C.

He appeared at Point Loma University, San Diego, as clinician and workshop leader at the University’s February, 2002, Annual Choral event. In May, 2002, McNeil conducted Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s Inaugural Multi-Cultural Festival after having organized and developed Founder’s Church’s International Choral Festival on Cinco de Mayo. This festival now in its ninth year has attracted over 1300 choristers and brought choirs to the Los Angeles area from as far off as San Diego and Santa Barbara. McNeil with selected members of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers conducted daily educational presentations as a part of the Hollywood Bowl summer music offerings for children K through 5 during July, 2002.

Notable among his many awards are: Alumnus of the Year for Professional Excellence presented by his alma mater, UCLA, and the Michael Korn Award for distinguished conducting (Chorus America--Association of Professional Ensembles). He has the honor of being selected a Sterling Patron of Mu Phi Epsilon. The California State University Board of Trustees on May 28, 2003, conferred the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree upon McNeil at the Summer, 2003, commencement exercises held on the campus of California State University, Northridge. He also delivered the commencement address at that time. The ACDA Western Division honored both the Jubilee Singers and Dr. McNeil in “command performances” at their Las Vegas Convention in February, 2004, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to Choral Music. Professor McNeil’s 2005 schedule included another appearance before the National ACDA Convention in Los Angeles, and a headline performance at the Bilbao International Film Festival in November, and an Encore performance of Dr. McNeil at Davies Hall, San Francisco in December. McNeil lead his Singers at the L. A. Holiday Celebration on Christmas Eve, 2005 and again in 2006, 2007 & 2008. He received a lifetime achievement award in July, 2007 from the National Association of Church Musicians at their summer conference in Camarillo, California. 2008-09 included run-out concerts to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and a host of concerts prior to their 17th tour of Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Germany, with several dates in Spain during the holiday period.


Professor McNeil is on the boards of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Neighborhood Music School. He holds “Honorary membership” in the Society of Puerto Rican Choral Directors, and received an award from the Association of Choral Singers from the National Choir of the Dominican Republic after a series of concerts there in 1995. He is a life member of the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association of Negro Musicians. He was a Member of the Board of Directors of Chorus America, 1988-1997.

In recognition of inspirational service to the art of Choral Conducting, the California Chapter of the America Choral Directors Association awarded Dr. McNeil with the coveted Howard Swan Award during their summer meeting, July 27, 2014.

February 7, 2014, Dr McNeil was the guest conductor of the 65th Annual Stairway of the Stars, a choral gala featuring elementary, middle and senior high school groups of over 350 students in the Santa Monica High School Auditorium, sponsored by the Santa Monica/Malibu School district.

Dr. Diane White-Clayton - Interim Artistic Director

A native of Washington, DC, Diane was performing by age four and directing choirs by age nine; she was arranging and composing by eleven. She holds a Ph.D. and MA in Music Composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara and graduated with honors from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with emphases in Composition, Voice, and Piano. Prior to graduate studies, Dr. White-Clayton was awarded the coveted Rotary Scholarship for a year's study as an Ambassador of Goodwill to France. As a Rotary Scholar, she studied classical piano at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris and performed solo Gospel concerts throughout Europe.

 Affectionately known as "Dr. Dee", Diane travels extensively as a workshop clinician, vocalist, pianist, composer, conductor, workshop clinician, and speaker. She has held numerous positions at universities, colleges and churches across the country including Artistic Director for the Washington Performing Arts Society gospel choral program; Artist-in-Residence with the School of Music and Assistant Director of African-American Student Development at Appalachian State University; Artist-in-Residence for the Chaplaincy at Westmont College; Composer-in-Residence at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Scholar-in-Residence at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

 Her vast church work includes Choral Conductor and Pianist at the New Christ Memorial Church under the legendary Pastor Andraé Crouch, Artist-in-Residence at the First United Church of Santa Barbara and she is currently on staff as Choral Conductor of the 6,000-member Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles, California under the leadership of internationally renowned Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, where she is the Founding Director of the musically diverse Sacred Praise Chorale. She was the creator and Artistic Director for “This is Her Story ~ This is Her Song: Black Women & Song in America,” a three-day symposium on Black women as creators and interpreters of song in American culture.

 As a workshop clinician, Dr. Dee uses her tools as a vocal technician to assist choirs in developing their sound; she teaches Gospel Choir workshops for those unfamiliar with the performance practices of Gospel Music; she has a series of “Freeing Your Voice” workshops that include sessions for helping “non-singers” overcome their fears of singing as well as workshops for corporate teams to foster team-building and voice strengthening. No matter what the topic, Dr. Dee’s workshops are fun, interactive, educational and inspiring.

 As a composer, her works have been performed across the globe at such venues as the John F. Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Air Canada Arena and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Her scores are often included in the repertoire of festivals on the middle, high school and collegiate levels. Although Dr. Dee is most known for her choral anthems, she has gained recognition for her tremendous stylistic diversity, ranging from atonal classical pieces to contemporary gospel. An ingenious arranger, her creativity may be heard in her arrangements of African and Korean folk songs to her much-celebrated arrangement of Israel's National Anthem, the Hatikvah.

 A classically trained pianist, Dr. Dee flowers her strong gospel proficiency with a powerful virtuosity and the colors of jazz. Vocally, she weaves her operatic high soprano skills into a soulful gospel warmth that both inspires and impresses listeners as she spans her three-and-a-half octave range.