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Singing the African American Spirituals with Integrity

Workshop – Singing the African American Spirituals with Integrity
Saturday, May 14, 2022 from 2:00-5:00

Video recordings of this workshop are available here.

Co-sponsored by the Cathedral and the Anti-Racism Commission

of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

Intermezzo Choir portrait

Church musicians, clergy, and lay people are invited to learn more about how to introduce the repertoire of the African American Spirituals to their choirs and congregations in this workshop sponsored by the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral and the Diocesan Anti-Racism Commission.  Please see video link above.

Four clinicians modeled how they teach the Spirituals to their adult, youth, and children’s choirs, as well as to their congregations. Special attention was given to the historical context of the music and the ways in which those who are not direct descendants of the enslaved people who originated the Spirituals can develop their own authentic connection to the music with respect and integrity.

The clinicians are Dr. Jay Fluellen, Organist/Choir Director, African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas; Dr. Lynnel Joy Jenkins, Artistic Director, Westlake (NJ) Music Academy; Ms. Carrie Lessene, Artistic Director, Intermezzo Choir Ministry, Philadelphia; and Dr. Thomas Lloyd, Canon for Music and the Arts, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.

The afternoon concluded with a short service of singing, supported by the Intermezzo Choir Ministry (photo above), prayer led by the Rev. Dr. Chaz Howard, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, and a homily by the Rev. Canon Jordan Casson, Rector, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Yeadon.

For more information contact Thomas Lloyd at tlloyd@philadelphiacathedral.org.

Featured Clinicians

Jay Fluellen lo-res cropped Lynnel Joy Jenkins pic Carrie Lessene pic Thomas Lloyd pic
Jay Fluellen Lynnel Joy Jenkins Carrie Lessene Thomas Lloyd


Jay Fluellen is a Philadelphia born musician known as a composer, college professor, educator, accompanist, pianist, singer, and organist/choir director. He has a doctorate in music composition from Temple University in addition to his certification in K-12 music education from Eastern University. Dr. Fluellen is currently a teacher with the School District of Philadelphia at Northeast High School, where is the choir director, music technology specialist, and stage manager. He has taught college level courses in the fields of music composition, written and aural theory, music history, piano, and conducting at Morgan State University, Lincoln University, Montgomery County Community College, University of the Arts, and Community College of Philadelphia.


Fluellen has been commissioned by numerous institutions, including; The Philadelphia Jazz Project, Orchestra 2001, The Bucks County Choral Society, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Network for New Music, Relâche, Singing City, Traci Hall Dance Co., The Settlement School of Music, and Trinity Episcopal Church, Swarthmore, among others. Since January 1997, has served as organist/choir director at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Fr. Martini Shaw, rector, where he directs the Chancel Choir, a contemporary jazz ensemble, and co-directs a Men’s Choir, in addition to other responsibilities.

Lynnel Joy Jenkins is Artistic Director of the Westrick Music Academy and choral teacher at the Timberlane Middle School of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District in Pennington, New Jersey. Dr. Jenkins’ varied conducting and teaching experience ranges from the elementary to collegiate level. Previous to these appointments, she served as Assistant Professor of Music Education at Westminster Choir College of Rider University and Conductor of the Resident Training Choir at the American Boychoir in Princeton, New Jersey. She has also served as Associate Music Director of the Temple University Children’s Choir in Temple University’s Music Preparatory Division and music specialist at the Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

Jenkins is a choral music educator of international stature, having lectured and conducted in China, Hong Kong, Iceland, South Africa and Switzerland. She has conducted honor choruses for one national, four divisional and several state conferences for the American Choral Directors Association, two national conferences for the Organization for American Kodály Teachers, numerous all-state choruses and choral festivals, and presented interest sessions and reading sessions for these professional music associations.

Jenkins was inducted into the Music Education Alumni Hall of Fame and presented the Alumni Merit Award by Westminster Choir College for her contributions to the field of music education. She earned degrees from Westminster Choir College of Rider University (B.M.), Temple University (M.M.) and University of Arizona (DMA).

 Carrie Walker Lessene was born and raised in North Philadelphia. As she began her education in the Philadelphia School System her interest in music began. Due to the musical education she received in her primary grades playing the piano, flute and cello before the age of 13, her musical talent grew.  Her years at Girls’ High, graduating in 1977, prepared her for a Music Therapy degree at Montclair University. Carrie has had multiple experiences as a vocalist/musician, those which include singing before Presidents, singing upon the sands of Egypt and abroad, and even singing before Pope Francis. The gospel, classical and jazz idioms have all been layered as intertwining components of her background.


As a member of the Grammy-nominated Gabriel Hardeman Delegation, Director of Intermezzo Choir Ministry, founded by Dr. Verolga Nix, composer/soloist with the Robert Ladson Ensemble, and Director of Music  for her church, Berean Presbyterian, where she also serves as an Elder, music offered by Carrie has been enjoyed by many congregations. On two recent occasions Carrie has been accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by world renowned conductor Andre Raphel as a member of the Freedom Choir directed by Dr. Nolan Williams. This afforded her the opportunity to lead the final selection of the opening summer season of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Lessene serves as teacher and choral conductor at the Gibson School of Music and is a FAME Teaching Artist with Musicopia in North Philadelphia.

Thomas Lloyd is a conductor,  composer, and singer who has served as Canon for Music and the Arts at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral since 2010 and Artistic Director of the Bucks County Choral Society since 2000. He is Emeritus Professor of Music at Haverford College, where he directed the combined Choral and Vocal Studies Program for Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges from 1996-2018. The premiere recording of his 70-minute choral-theater work Bonhoeffer by The Crossing was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Choral Performance category.

Dr. Lloyd has formed collaborative performance projects with a wide range of over 80 different choirs, both regionally and in leading twelve international tours. Growing out of shared performances with the HBCU choirs of Fisk, Howard, and Lincoln universities, a major focus of his scholarly research has been the history and performance practice of the African American Spiritual, as well as sacred choral jazz in the tradition of Duke Ellington, teaching sacred music in secular contexts, and cross-cultural collaborations.  

In addition to articles for national and international journals, his work in these areas has been the subject of feature programming on NPR stations WRTI-FM and WHYY-FM, Philadelphia, as well as PBS station WHYY.  In December 2020, a collaboration with Philadelphia conductor Donald Dumpson resulted in an hour-long WHYY-TV special Christmas Together in a Time of Isolation that reached over 20,000 viewers.  Lloyd holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory (BM bassoon), Yale Divinity School (MAR pastoral theology), the Yale School of Music (MM voice and opera), and the University of Illinois (DMA choral conducting).

Last Published: July 14, 2022 12:34 PM