Chorus America recognized Joseph Jennings, music director emeritus of Chanticleer, as the first recipient of the Chorus America Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award at a June 12th ceremony that was part of the organization’s 2014 Conference. The award honors individuals or organizations whose work builds upon educator, conductor, and composer Brazeal Dennard’s commitment to inclusiveness and furthering African-American and other diverse choral traditions.
The funding for the award, which will be given periodically to an individual or organization, was provided by individual donors who worked closely with Brazeal Dennard, and who continue to benefit from what they learned from him over a career that spanned more than 60 years. The establishment of this award reflects Chorus America’s goal to celebrate those that intentionally include diverse perspectives and approaches in their work.
During his 25-year tenure at Chanticleer, Joseph Jennings expanded the ensemble’s repertoire, which had been exclusively focused on early music, to include spirituals and traditional gospel music. Every one of the 25 recordings released under his direction includes spirituals or gospel music, and two CDs are exclusively dedicated to the repertoire. Jennings used Chanticleer’s concert and touring season; significant youth outreach programs; and television, radio, and online audiences in the millions to build awareness and appreciation of African-American choral traditions worldwide. He continues to contribute to the vitality and relevance of the tradition through his own popular compositions and arrangements, commissioned and performed by ensembles throughout the United States and Canada.
“Our song continues to be heard today throughout this land and across the world because of the legacy that has been created, and because of the dedication and the passion for our music exhibited by Brazeal and his never-ending quest for preservation and discovery of our heritage,” said Jennings in his acceptance speech. “And our song will always be heard until the end of time because it lives in our hearts and in our spirits and in our souls and it gives us strength to move forward. Thank you to Chorus America for recognizing Brazeal and his work in such inestimable fashion.”