Oklahoma Baptist University

Native African-American Sound Comes to OBU

The history and heritage of native African-American culture will come alive through rhythm and song for Oklahoma Baptist University's chapel service, Feb. 6.

The internationally acclaimed Georgia Sea Island Singers will be in concert at OBU during the 10 a.m. chapel service and at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7 for the university's fine arts concert series event. Both OBU concerts are in the university's Potter Auditorium in Raley Chapel.

The group also is scheduled to perform at Cross Timbers Elementary School in Tecumseh on Feb. 6 and at Jefferson Elementary School and Will Rogers Elementary School in Shawnee on Feb. 7.

The singers incorporate authentic songs, games and dances into their performance, created more than 200 years ago by slaves and handed down in the time-honored oral tradition. Their repertoire includes spirited work songs and shouts, sea chanties, distinctive hand-claps, and songs in the lyrical Gullah language.

Their unique sound stems from their preserved culture in the isolated island communities off the United States' southern coastline. Frankie and Doug Quimby, longtime colleagues of Bessie Jones, founder of the group, are devoted to preserving this portion of our nation's history.

Frankie Quimby, a representative of the second generation of the Singers, and her son, Tony Merrell, a representative of the third generation, will perform in the concerts at OBU and local schools.

Born and reared in one of the isolated island communities off the Georgia coast, Frankie is the oldest of 13 children. Her family is one of the few who can trace their ancestry to a specific spot in Africa.

Many of her relatives were slaves on the Hopeton and Altama Plantations. Several of them still reside in the Brunswick and St. Simons Island area.

Born in Baconton, Ga., Doug and his family were sharecroppers. He and his wife share common musical heritage, although they grew up miles apart.

Doug's grandfather spoke in the Gullah dialect indicating his ancestors worked on the coastal plantations before being sold to inland landowners. Well known as a gospel singer, he joined the Sensational Friendly Stars in 1963 and sang with numerous quartets before joining the Georgia Sea Island Singers.

The group has toured the United States and abroad for more than 30 years. They have performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Smithsonian Museum, and Hollywood Bowl. They also have been featured performers at the National Kodaly Music Association, New England Conservatory, and at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

The Quimbys have appeared in Time Magazine, People Magazine, Southern Living and The Washington Post. They have been featured on CNN, Nickelodeon and various TV stations across the world.

The concerts at OBU are free and open to the public.

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