The Way It Was

1975, The Brazeal Dennard Chorale


photograph courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library (E. Azalia Hackley Collection)

1975Lifting their voices in song are members of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale, directed by its namesake, circa mid-1970s. Founded in 1972, the organization has always specialized in promoting the tradition of the Negro spiritual and African-American composers, though they easily shift into performing the classical choral bulwarks by Mendelssohn, Handel, and others. Born in Detroit in 1929, Dennard earned a master’s degree at Wayne State University and spent many years teaching in Detroit Public Schools, and later served as an adjunct faculty member at Wayne State. He arranged and recorded spirituals and was instrumental in creating the annual Classical Roots concerts with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which celebrates the contributions of African-Americans to the classical tradition. The Chorale eventually sparked two offshoots: the Brazeal Dennard Community Chorus and the Brazeal Dennard Youth Chorale. Dennard died at the age of 81 in 2010, but the music he loved did not perish with him. Now under the direction of Alice McAllister Tillman, the Brazeal Dennard Chorale carries on the tradition of its founder. On Feb. 18, the Chorale performs at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Park, and on March 2-3 they raise their voices in the Classical Roots concerts with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall. More information at

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