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Conductor André J. Thomas: “People cannot hate each other and sing together“

The slaves’ road to freedom, the help that white Americans had provided, the belief that salvation is coming, finding the way in life full of challenges and dangers… Spiritual and gospel songs, as well as songs from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess will portray the soul of America in Bulgaria tomorrow. André J. Thomas will be conducting the Classic FM Orchestra and Choir as well as US vocalists NaGuanda Nobles and Benjamin Polite at this concert from The Music of America programme presented by the Cantus Firmus music agency and the America for Bulgaria foundation.

“When I selected the programme, I was thinking predominantly about describing the African Americans’ experience,” André J. Thomas said on Jazz FM. Starting with Dry Your Tears, Africa, that talks about the road to slavery, the programme continues with songs about faith that religion brings (Go Down Moses), and then the road to freedom (Follow the Drinking Gourd). The development of society and music will then be exemplified by songs from the gospel tradition that started in the 1920s with Thomas Dorsey – the moment when people began singing about the impact God had on their lives. And then other genres merged with this music, as will be illustrated by Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. “All this music, the songs of freedom – they come from the soul,” André J. Thomas said, referring to the title of the concert.

A very popular choir conductor, he had just come back from Namibia, where he conducted a choir of Namibians – ethnic Africans and ethnic Germans, descedants of the people who had established that colony 50 years ago. 10 years back, André J. Thomas was in Israel, conducting a choir of 500 Jews from all over the world, to return to the US to conduct a choir of Jews and Arabs. One of his latest engagements was leading a choir of 15 000 people in Latvia. “In music no one cares if you’re rich or poor, what race you are, how smart you are. It’s the one piece of glue that I firmly believe brings people together,” André J. Thomas said on Jazz FM. He shared his idea of uniting the whole of America by creating a choir of all Members of Congress, with President Obama singing the solo. “People cannot hate each other and sing together,” André J. Thomas added.

  • You can listen to Tanya Ivanova’s interview with André J. Thomas using the Audio button.