On-Air Highlights

Ecstatic Voices: Sacred Music in America

Written by Fred Vigeant, Director of Programming and Promotions for TV and Radio | Jul 18, 2013 8:43 AM

NPR launches a year-long series to uncover and celebrate the diversity and richness of sacred music in the U.S. The emphasis is on musical discovery, to uncover little-known yet startlingly wonderful sacred music, and younger artists who are under the radar. The stories also celebrate the many ways in which people make spiritual music -- individually and collectively, inside and outside houses of worship.

The occasional series launches began this month and will run for one year, with pieces airing across Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition on witf. The lead reporter is John Burnett, along with other staffers and freelancers from around the country.

The series kicked off with a feature on All Things Considered July 15. John Burnett profiled the Pentecostal trombone shout bands of the United House of Prayer in Charlotte, N.C. Hear the story:

Planned parts of the series ahead:

  • Abdelwahab Benyousef is an Algerian actor whose calls to prayer in his Los Angeles mosque are so clarion and moving that he has become a sensation.
  • Riad Abdel-Gawad is a Harvard-trained Egyptian violinist in Southern California who plays mystic Sufi chant music.
  • Kanniks Kannikeswaran is a professor of Indian music at University of Cincinnati who composes and produces choral Indian Hindu ragas.
  • The monks of Clear Creek Abbey in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are renowned for their Gregorian chants.
  • Salvador is a Spanish-language contemporary Christian indie rock band from Texas.
  • Rabbi Neil Blumhofe, cantor at Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, mixes jazz scat singing with traditional Jewish liturgy.
  • The sacred steel guitars of the House of God, an African American Pentecostal denomination in the U.S. and Caribbean, are at the center of praise and healing services that date back to the 1930s.
  • Alabados are sacred Spanish-language hymns still sung in New Mexico Catholic churches that originated in colonial New Spain in the eighteenth century.
  • The Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco, with services every Sunday, is dedicated to the music and wisdom of John Coltrane.

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