The spiritual is a distinctly American art form: songs sung by slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries to raise their spirits, give them hope and praise God, despite their plight.
It was a form University of Kentucky voice professor Everett McCorvey was afraid would die or be diluted by blues and gospel if someone wasn't dedicated to preserving it. So, in 1995, he formed the American Spiritual Ensemble to highlight the spiritual around the country and the world.
The ensemble's ever-changing lineup includes performers who have sung in some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, and possibly some who are on their way. One of the group's best known alumni is Angela Brown, who wowed critics and audiences when she was an emergency replacement in the title role of the Metropolitan Opera's 2004 production of Aida.
The ensemble itself has traveled the world, visiting countries such as Spain and China, and has performed at venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The group was featured in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games opening ceremony, but its performance Wednesday night will be a chance to see the ensemble's full show, which includes gospel, Broadway and opera, in a venue that accentuates the power of the singers' voices.