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Diana Praeger Smittle

Diana Praeger Smittle

Sang in Oceanside (California) High School Honor Choir under Mr. Lambson 1965-1968, Oceanside, California

As I write my memories of Mr. Hairston, to this day his music had such an impact on me that, at the age of 65 now, I still find myself walking around the house humming or singing Mr. Hairston's passionate spirituals all the time. It was 1966 at Oceanside High School. Our choir director, Mr. Ray Lambson, had just announced that our choir would be joining other high school choirs in San Diego County to create a 1,000-voice choir, conducted by Jester Hairston. WOW, is the only word that describes how excited we all were to meet Mr. Hairston ! The ultimate one-time performance would be at my high school, AND they were actually cutting a record of our performance. All participating choirs rehearsed Mr. Hairston's inspired spirituals at their own ...

I was in 8th grade in 1963..am now 64. MR.HAIRSTON came to our school district by invitation, either our school district supervisor or one of the glee club teachers. The entire school district glee clubs (Sweetwater District-South Bay, San Diego,CA) both high school and junior high glee clubs were brought together to learn his music and give a one night performance for San Diego County conducted by Mr. HAIRSTON. Each school grade learned different songs..I believe it was 3 for the high schools and 3 for the junior highs. And, then a couple songs joined together.

A record was made of the concert which I still have. It also includes the many stories Mr. HAIRSTON shared with all of us. It was never OF great quality, but I am willi ...

Lynn McCurdy-Robinson

Lynn McCurdy-Robinson

BA, MA,Cultural Anthropologist,

Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper

Programmer, Seattle, Washington

When I was a teenager, my chorus group joined several other Jr. High groups to sing at the Opera House in Seattle, WA about 1970. Our guest Conductor was Mr. Jester Hairston. My younger sister's group was also there. Both of us will never forget that day. He made you feel the music while directing us. It was a beautiful and religious experience for all of us. ...

I am sitting at my desk among many boxes. We have just returned to Atlanta after an absence of forty years. It is four a.m. an darkness is all about me. In the distance, I see from my Peachtree Road apartment in Buckhead, the bright lights of downtown Atlanta. Slowly, I turn on a light and the cover of a recent issue of the journal, “The Triangle of Mu Phi Epsilon” catches my eye. An impressive photograph of Dr. Hansonia Caldwell is featured. I turn the pages and read of her distinguished career. Suddenly, the lines, “Anyone who has memories or experiences with Jester Hairston is invited to contact Dr. Caldwell”, draw my attention. It was inevitable that my mind went back to the year, 1972. As I reflected back, the enigmatic prob ...

T.J. Anderson

T.J. Anderson

Austin Fletcher Professor of Music Emeritus, Tufts University, Medford, MA

Anna Gonzales

Anna Gonzales

Los Angeles, CA,

In the 1970s, Dr. Hairston would often worship at Park Hills Community Church in the View Park area of Los Angeles where he lived. Our church felt blessed on several Easter worship services when Dr. Hairston led the congregation in singing “Amen,” with him taking the solo verses. One Sunday we learned that it was his birthday and the choir sang “Happy Birthday” to him. From that year on I always sent him a birthday card on July 9th. Often he would respond by sending me a note from where-ever he was traveling (see copies attached). I especially cherish the card from Mexico where he mentioned my mother, Mary P. King, who was our Women’s Day Speaker that year. His memory will always be in my heart. ...

Dear Friends of Jester:

The legacy of Jester Hairston continues to shine and to bring joy to people all over the world. This Centennial celebration marks a life filled with the joys of musical accomplishments matched by very few. Jester, born on July 9, 1901, traveled a wide and varied path, buyt he left a vivid memory with all whose lives he touched.

His contribution to the world of choral music will be lasting, and his striving for excellence is recognized today as a standard for all of us to emulate. He was known by many as an actor, arranger, composer, and director, but he will be remembered by those who knew him best as an individual who lived life to the fullest. He gave to the world, through his music, a gift t ...

Gene Brooks (d. 2007)

Gene Brooks (d. 2007)

Executive Director, The American Choral Directors Association, Edmond, Oklahoma

Bill Ivey

Bill Ivey

Former Chair of the National Endowment of the Humanities, 2000, USA

I met Mr. Hairston when he came to the University of Mississippi where he conducted workshops and concerts that left a lasting impression on the entire community. His ability to bond black and white worlds through music was truly moving. ...
Jane Griner remembers the impact Jester made in the 1960s: For many of us the racial turmoil was distant and confusing. The segregation of the south was foreign, and the more subtle racism was sliding by unnoticed by many of us. There was no Black History Month, no black studies in school, little mention of the contributions and accomplishments of this part of 9our population. But all of us listened as Jester Hairston told stories. As he taught us about pronunciation he told us where in Africa these people had come from, the kind of work they were being forced to do when they sang, the origin of the rhythms, and the stories of hardship, family, work and loss. We learned the messages of the underground railroad embedded in the songs. We bega ...
Jane Griner

Jane Griner

A Summer student of the College of the Pacific, California

Carol Tingle

Carol Tingle

Music teacher, Los Angeles

I sang with Hairston first when I was in high school. When I "grew up" and became a choral director myself, I brought him in two times to direct our San Luis Obispo County Honor Choirs. So I feel as if I've know Jester all my life!! And, of course, loved him on "Amen!" ...
"I remember Jester quite well. Working as a Production PA on "Amen" was one of my first jobs out of college." ...
Lillian Benson

Lillian Benson

Posting for a friend (Industry professional) who wants to remain anonymous, Los Angeles

Quote from Alvin Ailey (d. 1989)

Quote from Alvin Ailey (d. 1989)

Regarding the Spirituals, USA

Alvin Ailey: "One of America's richest treasures is the cultural heritage of the African-American - sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful." His enduring classic "Revelations" uses traditional Spirituals to pay tribute to that heritage. ...
Since 1980, Jester called me his "favorite cousin," because of my musicianship and ability to arrange choral spirituals, many of which were influenced by him. When I had the pleasure of being an invited Guest Conductor at Carnegie Hall, February 19, 2012, my original piece, ECHOES OF JESTER HAIRSTON, was in tribute to him and was performed as a world premier by a mass choir of 300 singers from around the country; Detroit, Seattle, Arizona, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz area, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The enclosed picture is of Jester and me after one of his concerts many years ago, when he personally introduced me to his audience, saying: "I wish to acknowledge my favorite musician-cousin, Jacqui Hairston;" these were words I shall never fo ...
Jacqueline Hairston (aka Jacqui)

Jacqueline Hairston (aka Jacqui)

Award-winning ASCAP Composer-Arranger, Music Educator, Pianist, Church Musician, Vocal Coach, Sacramento, CA

Professor Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje

Professor Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA,

I regularly use Hairston's music in two classes that I teach: "African American Musical Heritage" and "African American Music in California."... In addition to being actively involved in the Los Angeles community as a conductor and arranger of spirituals, he traveled extensively to various parts of the world introducing and conducting spirituals. In fact, the arrangements of his spirituals continue to be performed nationally and globally. ...

Jester Hairston’s recent death and accompanying article triggered a personal and vivid incident in my memory that occurred some 40 years ago. In late 1959, as a 7th grader, I was assigned the topic of “slavery” for a history project. I had recently heard Mr. Hairston give a workshop on the subject here in Los Angeles, so I wrote to him for added information. At the time, he was in Texas filming “The Alamo.” I was thrilled to receive a two-page, single-spaced, typewritten letter by Mr. Hairston thanking me for my interest and chronicling, in detail, the daily life of a typical black slave. It was absolutely fascinating and valuable information. Incredibly, in the rush to finish my project, I lost the precious letter. I cringe ev ...

Susan Lynn Davis

Susan Lynn Davis

Reseda, CA 91335,

Sherry Childers

Sherry Childers

I met Mr. Hairston while I was a high school student, Now, - Salt Lake City, Utah when I met him,

When I was a high school senior, in 1972, Mr. Hairston was the guest director of our All State Choir in Utah. He told us of his history and how he wrote 'Amen.' We sang it as our encore in the Mormon Tabernacle...It was probably the most soul ever heard in that venue! ...
Mr. Hairston brought the spiritual to a remarkably wide range of the listening audience during the 20th century. Interpretations of his arrangements are diverse, from Soul (Otis Redding) to Country (Johnny Cash), from Gospel (Mahalia Jackson) to Folk (Harry Belafonte), from Pop (Teresa Brewer) to Rock and Roll (Elvis Presley), as well as church choirs. Many people knew Hairston’s music, but few know his name. ...
Rena Kosersky

Rena Kosersky

Research and Music Supervisor, New York

Harry Belafonte 2011

Harry Belafonte 2011

Actor, Los Angeles

In song, I think, all humanity finds a place in which to reside where there is no fear. In song, there’s something that touches the best of the sensibility of the human family. So much of the power of black spiritual music is about hope, is about a sense of liberation, is about a promise of future that we all aspire to….It tells us who we should be and what we really, in a fundamental way, sense; we aspire to be people of love and joy and peace. -Quote from H’ava Nagila, a film by Roberta Grossman. ...
"My grandmother was a slave. I'm not ashamed of it at all. All the kids I grew up with - their grandparents were slaves. So I teach the music just like I heard it from my grandmother and the other old people, sitting right out there in the yard." ...
Jester Hairston (1901-2000)

Jester Hairston (1901-2000)

Iinternationally celebrated composer, conductor, actor, and educator, Los Angeles

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Jan Glarum

, A Better Emergency Chicago

Jester and my father were good friends. My dad was the Music Director at Lewis and Clark College from 1947 to 1975 when he retired. Often if Jester was in town when dad's choir had a concert Jester would come up and conduct them in singing Amen and other works of his. He continued being a great family friend even after dad died in 1976. ...
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