ChazzFest organizers didn’t have far to go to find some authentic Lowcountry vocal music. Led by jazz/soul/gospel vocalist and producer Ann Caldwell, the Charleston-based Magnolia Singers specialize in from-the-heart folk music, poetry, and Carolina-born stories. They embrace pure Gullah language, rhythm, and culture in an audience-interactive setting and offer a glimpse into the roots of American music.
The Magnolia Singers’ Praise House has been a favorite of Piccolo Spoleto over the years. These concerts usually offer lessons and stories on African-American history and Gullah/Geechee culture. The Gullah language is a distinctive pidgin of English and West African languages that have been spoken by the sea island community for generations.
“It’s more like an experience than a show,” says director Ann Caldwell, a busy local performer and teacher fluent in soul, jazz, gospel, and blues styles. “We give everyone a chance to hear what the Gullah language sounds like. We will be doing a set of various spirituals, which some describe as of the oldest folk music in the U.S.”
The roster of Magnolia Singers for the ChazzFest performance features Caldwell, Yvonne Brown, Patricia Jones, Margaret Coleman, Elaine Singleton, and Teoshá. They’ll sing, clap, shout, and harmonize to the heavens at the kick-off on the SCBT (S.C. Bank & Trust) Beach & Heritage Stage on Saturday morning. Their authentic presentation of indigenous Carolina folk music is what this part of ChazzFest is all about. For anyone from “away” who may not be familiar with Gullah or Geechee music and language, this a cappella set is a terrific introduction. —T. Ballard Lesemann
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