Writer Adrian Mitchell's drama about the extraordinary Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, Tennessee, who in the years immediately after slavery brought their great 'Sorrow Songs' from the plantations to Europe.
The late Adrian Mitchell, who died suddenly in 2008, was a much loved and revered poet, playwright and human rights campaigner. He was inspired to write this musical play by the true story of the Welsh journalist who toured with the black American Jubilee singers in their first European tour in the late nineteenth century.
The singers enchanted Queen Victoria and Gladstone, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot was heard in England for the first time when they sang it to packed concert halls throughout the country. Mitchell's play was conceived for the theatre but it has not yet had a stage production; this is its premiere; adapted for radio under the guidance of Adrian's widow Celia Mitchell.
The play stars London black gospel choir Nitrovox, with Musical directors Felix Cross and Allyson Devenish and a stellar black cast; Adjoa Andoh, Felix Dexter, Nadine Marshall, Tanya Moodie, Alibe Parsons, Clive Rowe and Ray Shell are joined by Jonathan Pryce who plays the Welsh journalist captivated by a completely new kind of song. He hears each singer's own story and begins to be entranced by one of them in particular, though their love appears to have no future, developing as it does under the shadow of war in Europe, and the inevitable barriers which nineteenth century culture placed between men and women of different race.
Producer: Marilyn Imrie
A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4.
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