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CPR Classical Launches Yearlong Series to Explore African American Experience Through Spirituals

Centennial, Colo. Feb. 9, 2021 - CPR Classical, in collaboration with M. Roger Holland II, teaching assistant professor and director of the Spirituals Project Choir at the University of Denver, has launched a yearlong series to explore the music and history of African American sacred folk songs, or spirituals, called “Journey to Freedom: The Spirituals Radio Project.”

Listeners can hear spirituals on CPR Classical and read pieces online in which Holland explores how specific songs tell the story of the African American experience. Pieces range from the familiar — “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; “Deep River” — to lesser-known works with their own stories to tell.

“It is important for CPR Classical to more deeply explore our country’s full musical heritage,” said Program Director Monika Vischer. “So, it just made sense to reach out to Roger. CPR Classical has an enormous opportunity to draw on his expertise, and to amplify this vital and underappreciated part of our musical history.”

A former member of the Harlem Boys Choir, Holland is director of the Spirituals Project at the University of Denver, an organization dedicated to preserving and revitalizing the music and teachings of spirituals, created and first sung by African Americans in slavery. Holland previously collaborated with CPR Classical for a holiday feature in 2020 called “Shout for Joy! African American Spirituals and Music for Christmas.”

“The main point for anybody who listens is to understand that the music is ensconced in and emerged from suffering,” said Holland. “The music represents the resilience of the community; it enabled enslaved people to endure the atrocities levied against them. Our country’s ongoing fight against racism is linked back to slavery. My hope is that by exploring this music, injustice might be lessened and disparities might be made into situations that are equitable.” 

The first segment of “Journey to Freedom: The Spirituals Radio Project” features the lament  “Lord, How Come Me Here?”. Throughout the month, listeners can hear different versions of this spiritual on CPR Classical and read more about its historical significance online.


About Colorado Public Radio

Colorado Public Radio is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization delivering meaningful news, music, and cultural experiences to everyone in Colorado using the power of the human voice in all its forms. Roughly 95 percent of CPR’s funds come from the private support of listeners, businesses and foundations. For more information, visit www.cpr.org.

  • CPR News delivers in-depth, insightful and impartial news and information from around the world, across the nation and throughout Colorado, examining its relevance to our state and connecting it to our community.
  • CPR Classical takes listeners on an in-depth exploration of thoughtfully curated music – with an emphasis on Colorado’s classical community – providing context to a broad range of meaningful and compelling works from past to present.
  • Indie 102.3 takes listeners inside the world of new and independent music – exposing them to up-and-coming artists and highlighting Colorado’s local music scene.
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  • KRCC is a public radio station in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving Southern Colorado. KRCC is operated by Colorado Public Radio in partnership with Colorado College.