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Choir Celebrates Black History With the Songs of Slavery

The Heritage Restoration Chorale revives the past through music, using their voices to honor black history and keep it alive.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Reviving the past through music – singers in Fayetteville are using their voices to honor black history and keep it alive. They are the Heritage Restoration Chorale.

They are songs we don't hear much anymore, the songs of slavery.

“I noticed that it was becoming difficult to even hear the spirituals,” Choir Director Denise Payton said.

“To have the opportunity to pick them back up and sing them again is just amazing,” singer Janine McNeil said.

The Heritage Restoration Chorale has one goal – and it's part of their name. They want to restore the history and the heritage of the African-American experience through music.

“We thank you, God, for the doors that you have opened for us,” they pray. “We ask you, heavenly father, to allow us to let music be a teaching tool for those that don't know anything about our music.”

Payton started the group 12 years ago.

“We are doing everything we can to keep the dream alive,” Payton said, “refusing to allow our songs to be shoved away and say, ‘Oh that was a time that we don't want to think about.’”

“You don't find many African-American choirs who sing the kind of music that we do,” said member Jared Payton.

“To me, it gets all in your bones like – you can see that you're there with them during that time when they were marching and doing all that stuff, when they were in the fields, working in the fields, you could just feel that you were there with them,” singer Juanita Norman explained.

“Each of those songs has a message,” added singer Gloria Purnell.

They are messages that the chorale is determined not to let fade away with time.

“They are very, very dedicated,” Payton said of the members, “willing to give of their time and their talents.”

“It doesn't matter how long I want to rehearse,” the director said. “They stay there.”

“Every member of the choir volunteers and gives of their time unselfishly,” Philip Purnell said of his colleagues.

“I have absolutely no one if I don't have those people to swing my arms in front of. I need them,” Payton said. “They come on Friday nights – and yes, I know they could be anywhere.”

To sing their songs, the group members say, is to live them and keep them alive.

The chorale performs all over the state.

WRAL’s Living the Legacy segment airs each Tuesday night at 5:30 during Black History month.



Erin Coleman, Reporter
John Doe, Photographer
Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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