Jubilee Voices

Andrea Jones Blackford, Director

Jubilee Voices (credit: PG Parks)

Founded in 2010, the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble performs throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, preserving African American history and traditions through a unique blend of programming that infuses history with a cappella music, drama, spoken word, and dance. With more than a decade of performances at community events, historic sites, national landmarks, museums, and more, the group has developed a range of programming that not only focuses on general topics related to African American history, but can also be tailored to highlight local and regional history.

The group, originally founded as part of the Washington Revels’ initiative to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, has expanded its repertoire over the years to include the Colonial, post-Civil War, Reconstruction and Civil Rights Movement eras, all while tracing the music of these historic events back to the shouts, hollers, spirituals and chants sung during the antebellum period.

The group has performed at local and national events, including the dedication of the Alexandria (Va.) Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial and City of Alexandria Juneteenth events; the U.S. Archives; Frederick Douglass National Historic Site; the National Museum of African American History and Culture; the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park; and International Underground Railroad Month at the Josiah Henson Museum and Park (2021). The group appeared in the PBS show, Time Team America (“The Search for Josiah Henson”); and music from the group was featured as part of the finale of the PBS series, “Mercy Street.” Most recently, the Jubilee Voices collaborated with Mercer University to present “Wade in the Water: Gullah Geechee and African American Life and Culture on St. Simons Island,” a program blending live performance and digital oral histories recorded by Mercer students.

Read an article, “From Spiritual to Freedom Song: Tracing the Road to Freedom through Music,” by Jubilee Voices director, Andrea Jones Blackford.

Upcoming Jubilee Voices Events

  • Jubilee Voices at THEARC in Washington, D.C. 2024
    March 2 – Harriet Tubman Day
    Join Washington Revels Jubilee Voices at Westminster Presbyterian Church, as they bring their unique blend of history, music, and spoken word to a program honoring the work of Harriet Tubman during and after the Civil War. Jubilee Voices will sing a prelude and a special selection of music...
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  • Jubilee Voices performing at THEARC in Washington, D.C. 2024
    March 9 – “Heroes of the Underground Railroad” Stamp Launch
    Celebrate freedom! The U.S. Postal Service is honoring 10 courageous men and women who helped guide enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and safe houses in use before the Civil War. The USPS will unveil and dedicate a series of...
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  • Jubilee Voices singing at the Arlington Public Library
    March 16 – Jubilee Voices at Pleasant Grove
    “Singing the Journey from Civil War to Civil Rights” Join Jubilee Voices as they return to Historic Pleasant Grove Church for a songfest that traces the legacy of traditional African American music from the 19th century to the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond. This performance will blend...
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  • Watch Anytime - Jubilee July 2021
    Watch Anytime – Jubilee July 2021
    Marking 11 years with a month of special features! This July we celebrated the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices’ 11th anniversary (on July 31), highlighting this dynamic ensemble on social media with blog posts, member spotlights, and more. If you missed any of our posts, you can see all...
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At the core of Jubilee Voices are the singers. In this primarily a cappella group, each singer is auditioned and through rehearsal and group sharing their unique and authentic sound is achieved.  Most singers also present spoken word and participate as soloists.

Kadija Ash
Jackie Berry
Andrea Blackford
Harold Blackford
Christina Bussie
Sharon Clark-Napolitano
Brandi Collins
Jessica Estepa
David Fakunle
Paulette Grady
Margo Hall
Jim Harkless
Phyllis Henderson
Cheryl Lane
Greg McGruder
Keith Moore
Matt Pearson
Debbie Vaughan

Past Members:
Tia Dolet; Azie Dungee; Giordano Hardy-Gerena; Yvette Malcioln; Laia Rufaro; Kelly Williams; Vanessa Williams, Ronald Woodland


In Memoriam

In loving memory of two cherished members of the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices:

June Lambert

Arthuretta Holmes Martin

May you rest in peace and power.

Jubilee Voices presents a wide and varied repertoire of music, emphasizing three themes significant to the Civil War era:

  • African American Folk Songs and Spirituals, featuring shouts, hollers, poetry and readings. Spirituals include laments that convey the anguish of the “auction block” days and songs of strength and determination in the face of adversity.
  • Songs of Struggle and Freedom from the life of the enslaved and the quest for freedom, featuring code songs, signals, shouts, stories, and Underground Railroad lore.
  • 19th-Century Agricultural Life from an African American cultural perspective, featuring field calls, ring shouts, planting songs, children’s songs and games, and seasonal songs.

“…Stunning, poignant — the perfect capstone of our three day series… quite simply sensational.”
–Mary Ann Brownlow, Special Programs Producer, Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital

“I saw your program at Surratt House and want to let you know I thought it amazing, most entertaining, thought provoking, educational and poignant. The players really took one back to the awful days of slavery and then to the happy days of freedom. Everyone should see this presentation by the Jubilee Voices, they were grand.” —Joan L. Chaconas, History Specialist, Surratt House Museum, Clinton, MD

Thank you very much for being with us on Heritage Day. The feedback about your presentation was amazing, the concert at Sugarland was the topic of conversation in many of our neighboring black communities, especially by those who were not present wishing that they had attended after listening to those that were. Those that did attend were in awe. We received comments by many that they felt an overwhelming sense of bonding with the ancestors. The most quoted statement of the evening was, ”absolutely awesome, I love them,” another said, “I have never experienced anything like this before,” one said that she felt “spellbound.”One quote was, “watching and listening to the slave girl was mesmerizing.” Many expressed interest in learning more about your organization and the Jubilee Voices. –Gwendora Reese, St. Paul Community Church/Sugarland, Poolesville, MD

Washington Revels Jubilee Voices

On July 31, 2010, the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices held its first rehearsal, kickstarting a 10-year journey that would see this wonderful ensemble perform at venues, festivals and heritage sites throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia, and featuring frequent appearances on television and in the local news media.

To mark this milestone, we devoted the entire month of July 2020 to a series of events: song leading during the “Daily Antidote of Song,” social media features, spotlights on the singers, and more! “Jubilee July” highlighted memories from favorite performances over the past 10 years and culminated in a live virtual celebration on Friday, July 31, 2020.

Learn more about Jubilee Voices

Watch

You can relive our special virtual event marking the 10th anniversary of Jubilee Voices! Enjoy newly produced video performances, hear from special guests and past members of the ensemble, and sing along with us!

Social Celebration

Catch up on our special social media features from “Jubilee July”! We’ve gathered our video presentations, member spotlights, and Daily Antidote of Song appearances into three convenient Facebook playlists:

Jubilee Voices at Lincoln Cottage
Greg McGruder leading a song with Jubilee Voices at Lincoln’s Cottage.
Jubilee Voices at the Surratt House
Jubilee Voices Performing at the Surratt House Museum.
Freedmen's Cemetary in Alexandria
Andrea Blackford leading Jubilee Voices at the opening of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.
Jubilee Voices at the Friendship Heights concert series
Harold Blackford leading a song with Jubilee Voices.
Greg McGruder leading a song at Oakely Cabin
Greg McGruder leading a song with Jubilee Voices at Oakley Cabin.
Jubilee Voices performing at the Frederick Douglass House in Washington, DC
Jubilee Voices performing on the steps of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC.

For more information about Washington Revels Jubilee Voices, and to explore hosting a performance at your site, contact Toni Goldberg at tgoldberg@revelsdc.org.