This film narrative will present Dr. Jester Hairston's full life as a complete portrait of who he was. What is notable, is that Africa becomes a significant place of reference for Jester Hairston; it's here that the not-so-distant roots of his past grew deep. The music of this period also became especially meaningful to him, perhaps because of the connection it drew to his grandparents who were slaves on the plantations of North Carolina.
Jester Hairston's compositions would become a commemoration of the Spirituals: "spiritual songs" that were sung by slaves, offering them hope, faith, and inspiration that one day they would be free: even as they toiled long days and nights on the dusty plantation fields of the South. These same Spirituals later gave birth to various genres of modern day music, including call and response hymns, blues, and jazz.
The Jester Hairston Project introduces valuable footage from hours of video and audio material of Dr. Hairston teaching and leading choirs, and interacting with directors and musicians who performed his work. His newly discovered autobiography features the memories and perspectives of those who knew him and recall his stories of courage, humor, and love.
This film artfully reveals each stage of Jester Hairston's long life; from apprentice to choral director, to Broadway and beyond. It ultimately unites Dr. Hairstons' personal and professional career with the 20th century evolution of African American music. It is a celebration of both Spiritual and American music and the contributions Jester Hairston made in shaping the contemporary history of such traditional sounds.