Belmont University will host a celebration of the release of In Bright Mansions, a musical collaboration between Belmont University’s student-run Acklen Records and the internationally known Fisk Jubilee Singers, Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Belmont’s Ocean Way Nashville recording studio.
The event highlights an historic musical project and unique educational partnership involving Belmont University, Fisk University and Curb Records, that is bringing the historical sound of the Fisk Jubilee Singers to a new generation while also helping to support the continued growth of Acklen Records, which serves as a living lab for students in Belmont’s nationally-renowned Mike Curb School of Music Business.
The In Bright Mansions recording – and the partnership of Belmont, Fisk, Curb and Acklen Records – all evolved from a student brainstorming session three years ago involving students associated with the student-run record label, says Belmont music business professor Wesley Bulla, who produced the CD. Students in a Belmont music business marketing class also developed the marketing and promotional plan for the CD. “This has been three years in the making,” says Bulla.
The album was recorded inside the late 1800s stone church that now houses the Ocean Way Nashville recording studio, owned by Belmont University. The final product is an enhanced CD on a “signature” label with Acklen Records distributed by Curb Records. Royalties will be split between the Fisk Jubilee Singers and Acklen Records.
“Belmont will use its proceeds from sales of In Bright Mansions to develop and support Acklen Records and fund more recording projects,” Bulla says. “Essentially, this is a seed product that will hopefully generate income and interest and allow us to expand Acklen Records from being an in-house campus-only record label to being an independent record label with ongoing operations and a catalog of product.”
Speakers at Wednesday’s event will include Belmont President Robert Fisher, Fisk President Carolyn Reid-Wallace, Curb Records Executive Mike Curb, and Fisk Jubilee Singers Director Paul Kwami. There will also be a special performance by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Fisk University’s famed 130-year-old touring choir, perform a repertoire consisting almost exclusively of “Negro Spirituals” that date back to pre-Civil War slavery era. The Jubilee Singers first toured in 1871, to raise money to keep the doors of Fisk University open. The Jubilee Singers received a rave reaction, making fans of Mark Twain and the Queen of England – and helping finance Fisk through dark economic times.
“We are only standing on their shoulders,” says Paul Kwami, director of the current 16-member incarnation of the legendary choir.
The In Bright Mansions CD includes 18 spirituals and was recorded live, without overdubs, studio alterations or digital enhancements.