The Spokesman

The MSU choir sang alongside Aretha Franklin

Morgan's choir will pay tribute to the Queen of Soul during the Matriculation Convocation.

Penelope Blackwell, Editor-in-Chief

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The Morgan State University Choir plans to honor Aretha Franklin’s legacy during the Matriculation Convocation ceremony by singing “Precious Memories,” a song they sang together during the Gospel: In Performance at the White House back in 2015.

The Morgan State University Choir sang alongside Franklin, the Queen of Soul, at the suggestion of former First Lady Obama for the gospel gathering.

The choir also sang behind artists Pastor Shirley Caesar, Lyle Lovett and Tamela Mann in a room of about 200 people that were foot-stomping, hand-clapping and celebrating the gospel.

With only a two-week notice, Eric Conway, the chairperson of Fine and Performing Arts and the director Choral Activities was tasked with selecting “a small choir of 12-16 singers” out of 120 students.

According to Conway, “the concert was held in the East Room, which is a very large room by most standards. However, after placing a stage with steps, lights, audio equipment and six separate cameras to record the event, the room became very small.”


“I could only take 15 or 16, but I needed to make this work. I needed the best voices at the time to make it work and picked who I knew could deliver,” said Conway.

Although the production was edited down to a 55-minute special on PBS, Conway and members of the MSU choir spent an entire day at the White House after arriving at the Southeast gate early that morning.

After a morning of rehearsing and running the show, “it truly felt like a dream come true,” said Kiya Wright, a recent graduate of Morgan that sang alongside Franklin and others.

“She was a diva. She walked in with this huge fur coat on, her entourage followed her around and she just demonstrated star qualities. But, she was also quiet and humorous at the same time –very dynamic,” said Wright.

About a year later, Franklin personally contacted Conway and asked if the MSU choir to back her as she performed at the Music Center at Strathmore located in Bethesda, Maryland.

According to Conway, “this request was made after working with [Franklin] at the White House.”

After working with Franklin on different occasions, Conway described her voice as “perfect for the timing of people to receive her musical message” and “one for humanity.”

“Your spirit has to be right when your singing for people to connect with you,” he added.

The Matriculation Convocation is being held at 11 a.m. in the Murphy Fine Arts Center’s Gilliam Concert Hall on Sept. 6 on the campus of MSU.


4 Responses to “The MSU choir sang alongside Aretha Franklin”

  1. Wali Gill on September 2nd, 2018 11:53 am

    Aretha was a Queen of all kinds of music and of civil and human rights. She like so many other African American women defined feminism long before it became a catch-phrase.

  2. Patricia S. Tunstall on September 2nd, 2018 6:03 pm

    I am never surprised when The Outstanding MSU Director Conway and Choir are asked to perform with the Greatest Musical Artists, who always want to be heard at their best! Great job always, Congratulations!

  3. Lula Sessoms on September 4th, 2018 9:23 am

    To God be the glory for allowing you to make lasting memories and leaving your foot prints for all to see. What God has for you is for you. You are unique in such a special way. I am blessed to see and share with you your blessings. Thank you for your sharing.

  4. Bernellyn Carey on September 5th, 2018 11:19 am

    Thank you, Warren, for sharing this article with Hugh and me. As former members of the Morgan choir, I am pleased that Morgan continues to make a name for itself in several arenas. Thanks again for sharing!

    Bernie Carey,
    Class of ’67

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The MSU choir sang alongside Aretha Franklin