Dr. Eugene Thamon Simpson has become an important adviser and mentor to our chorus concerning the performance of African-American Spirituals. He has had a remarkable career, first as a concert pianist, then as a singer, and throughout as a conductor and composer and finally a professor. The first part of this interview was recorded in November, 2016. In it, Dr. Simpson tells the story of his remarkable life, career, and association with the great American composer and conductor Hall Johnson with whom he worked closely from 1959 until the composer’s death in 1971. Dr. Simpson was the founding Curator of the Hall Johnson Collection at Rowan University, which has since been transferred to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.
In the second part of the interview, which was done by myself and Dennis Speed on February 28, 2017, Dr. Simpson addresses the myths and truths of the African-American Spiritual both from a historical and performance perspective. Obviously, one brief interview cannot reveal everything there is to learn about this great American music, but it is an excellent start, and highly recommended listening for every member of the chorus.