SACRED STEEL GOSPEL BAND THE CAMPBELL BROTHERS TO TOUR CHINA IN AMERICAN ROUTES ABROAD PROGRAM, MAY 13-23, 2014

New Orleans, LA: Public radio’s American Routes Abroad program in partnership with Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, has organized the first-ever tour of a “sacred steel” gospel band to China. The Campbell Brothers will play to audiences at American Cultural Centers as well as U.S. Consulate and U.S. Embassy engagements in Shanghai, Nanjing, Shengyang and Qingdao. The tour will include workshops on the history and meanings of the African American sacred steel gospel music tradition.

The “sacred steel” style features the Holy Spirit’s “voice” – a signature steel guitar sound characterized by single-note passages that uncannily imitate African-American vocal styles and drive spirit-filled church services. The style arose in Florida’s House of God churches in the 1930s when church musicians introduced the widely popular Hawaii steel guitar into worship services. Since then steel guitarists, often as duos, have provided the driving musical force for the joyful church gatherings.

The Campbell Brothers, now of Rochester, NY were raised in the sacred steel tradition in Nashville. Their father was a bishop in the House of God. Pedal steel guitarist Charles “Chuck” Campbell and his lap steel-playing brother Darick are two of the finest. Chuck began playing steel guitar at age 11 and today is recognized as a great innovator and teacher whose tuning is emulated by a new generation of players. In 2004 Chuck Campbell received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Campbell family currently hosts a Chinese exchange student at a local high school, who will travel with the group.

Nick Spitzer, American Routes producer and professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Tulane University, is artistic director of the tour. Josh Kohn, program officer in Jazz & Traditional Arts at Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, is tour director.

American Routes is produced at Tulane University. The radio program received a Taiji award from the China Conservatory of Music (2012) for preservation and presentation of traditional music, and later organized US-China exchange programs with cowboy song and dance, New Orleans jazz and Cajun dance music as well as seminars on comparative cultural preservation policy in both countries. “We approach the conservation of vernacular culture by creating space for performance traditions here and abroad, on public radio and the concert stage, at a street parade or local festival. U.S. audiences can hear the results of our cultural diplomacy through a diversity of American traditions on American Routes radio early next year,” Spitzer said.

Tour support is provided by Tulane University, the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the US Department of State and American Culture Centers at Nanjing University for Posts and Telecommunications and University of Shanghai for Science and Technology through partnerships respectively with New York Institute of Technology and the University of North Dakota.

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