There were two Gospel choirs in the first edition of Umbria Jazz Winter. Sacred music choirs have been in the program of almost every edition so much to represent a distinctive trait of the Festival. It’s worth emphasizing that nowadays, gospel choirs are very common in Italian theaters, especially at Christmas time. However, in 1988, when the choir debuted at Umbria Jazz in a memorable concert at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, it was something new. Umbria Jazz has invited many choirs to its festivals, trying to choose the best of the American scene, which goes beyond the artistic side and has its roots in the spirituality of the Black American people.
This year, the Virginia State Gospel Choir returns to Umbria: a massive stage presence (30 elements on stage) is combined with a very high musical level. The Virginia State Gospel Choir is among the gospel scene’s most active and renowned choirs. Founded in 1971, the choir consists of young musicians who graduated from Virginia University and talented soloists from different musical backgrounds. Their international success happened in 1992 when James Holden became the artistic director. Since then, the choir has toured the United States and Europe with its concerts. Then, the choir recruited an excellent musician, Perry Evans, who led the choir to even more high-quality standards.
Under the wise leadership of Evans, the Virginia State Gospel Choir, even with deep roots in traditional gospel, creates a younger and more modern show with a strong visual impact. Their repertoire offers a gospel that is strongly affected by Afro-American sounds, rhythm & blues and soul to create an atmosphere that combines spirituality and rhythm, religious feeling and joy of living.