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Christmas is an amalgamation of hundreds of years of cross-cultural traditions, both sacred and secular, including those of the slave community in the American South. The holiday provided the slaves with a break from daily labors as well as special freedoms, including the opportunity to visit family and friends and to partake in recreational and social activities. Music was always an important part of the celebration. After the slaves’ emancipation, Christmas became even more festive, celebrating the birth of Christ, the coming of the New Year, and their new lives as free men and women.

In 2014, Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings was the first recipient of Chorus America’s Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award, acknowledging his contribution to the African-American choral tradition. During his 25-year tenure as singer and music director with Chanticleer, his gospel and spiritual arrangements became part of Chanticleer’s identity and were appreciated by worldwide audiences. This medley is an example of his remarkable ability to inject the vocal freedom inherent in the Southern Baptist tradition into the structure of classical music.