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 (AMJS) focus their energies on fostering public awareness of the Negro Spiritual to the broadest degree possible and other vocal music created by African Americans, through classes, concert performances, workshops, and lecture- demonstrations. AMJS also desires to educate the public about the direct (evolutionary)link between these genres of the African diaspora and blues, gospel, rock-n-roll, Soul/R&B, Hip Hop, jazz, and their influence on other American music genres in general. A proud community partner of the Department of Music and the College of Arts and Humanities at California State University, Dominguez Hills, AMJS was founded over 50 years ago by Dr. Albert J. McNeil. Under Dr. McNeil’s guidance, AMJS has garnered international acclaim and focused worldwide attention on the vast body of folk music termed “African-American.” AMJS has collaborated with such notable artists as Kathleen Battle, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Dale Warland Singers and Chanticleer.
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.