Lift Every Voice - History - Atlanta Magazine

Lift Every Voice

The Atlanta Music Festival hopes to raise its profile


When new york’s Metropolitan Opera traveled to Atlanta a little more than a century ago, white society buzzed with excitement—and black Atlantans were denied tickets. To prove that African Americans were also “striving for the better things of life,” as then pastor Henry Hugh Proctor told the Atlanta Constitution, Downtown’s First Congregational Church devised the All Colored Music Festival in 1910. World-renowned singers and composers were invited, as were whites, who sat in the balcony to show support.
To recapture the spirit of that event, the church and its current pastor, Emory University music professor Dr. Dwight Andrews, along with the Meridian Herald Chorale, have presented the Atlanta Music Festival for the past decade. This year they hope to raise its profile by partnering with Emory. “Believe it or not, many college choirs do not know the religious or racial heritage of the spirituals,” says Andrews. Classes and panels will intertwine with performances during the September 21 to 24 festival, held at Woodward Academy, Atlanta Symphony Hall, and Emory. The highlight will be acclaimed soprano and Atlanta native Indra Thomas harmonizing with 500 children on the historic anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Photograph courtesy of the Atlanta History Center

Amanda Heckert is our senior editor.
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