Felicia Patton, Thomas W. Jefferson and Julia DavidsPhoto by Heidi Randhava

“This is a leap for us. We usually do one concert on the North Shore,” said North Shore Choral Society (NSCS) Music Director Julia Davids at a rehearsal for the Music of Thomas W. Jefferson, presented by NSCS on March 9 at the Unitarian Church of Evanston and March 10 at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica in Chicago.

The multi-genre concerts will incorporate classical and gospel styles in a way that is both approachable and accessible. Music includes Dr. Jefferson’s gospel “Missa Brevis” and the première of his “How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place.”

“This music is not hard to listen to,” said Dr. Davids. “It’s joyful, toe-tapping, fun and moving – everything.

It’s going to take you through the gamut.”

NSCS featured soprano Felicia Patton compared Dr. Jefferson’s music to that of composer Robert Ray, whose “Gospel Mass” became a seminal work of African American music. “It’s bringing back that same style,” she said. “It’s giving us something that’s approachable for classical choirs that do anthems but also utilizes all of the aspects of gospel music. It’s multi-genre, so each style can learn from this type of music. The classical can go into the gospel, and the gospel can come into the classical.”

This will be the first time that NSCS has performed Dr. Jefferson’s music. When asked what it feels like to have his music come off the page, Dr. Jefferson said, “To hear a choir sing it – to have all these beautiful mixed voices singing, and then feeling, interpreting the text – it’s just a joy. It’s so efreshing and humbling.”

The Chicago composer and pianist earned his Doctor of Music degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Northwestern University. Regarded as an accomplished performer in both the classical and popular genres, Dr. Jefferson has collaborated with vocal artists such as William Warfield, the late world-renowned bass-baritone.

Currently Dr. Jefferson serves on the piano faculty of the North Park University School of Music and the Sherwood Community Music School and is music minister at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica on Chicago’s West Side. In addition, he is music editor of World Library Publications’ In Spirit and Truth series, music from the African American community.

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.