How many of the original songs survive intact from the slave cabins? Probably not many in their original form. Time has transformed them like light in a prism. What we hope to present is a version of those spirituals, and they speak not just to black Americans, but to people worldwide.
In spirituals, the talk of heaven and deliverance was code for a better life. 'Crossing the River Jordan' was code, of course, for escaping to freedom.
I bring my classical training - some of it, but not all of it - and also my background and culture, to spirituals. And I try to leave room for that unpredictable factor, where the feeling of the song is allowed to come through. The same ethos can be applied to singing Mozart, or Schubert, or Bach. It's not just about what's on the page.
From the spiritual came the blues, gospel, and rhythm-and-blues. I heard all of that music growing up, and that has influenced how I approached classical music. I'm sure of it.
New York is a great place to be fed in the arts. The arts in general are a large part of my life. The city was my postgraduate course.
The question is not... if art is enough to fulfill my life, but if I am true to the path I have set for myself, if I am the best I can be in the things I do. Am I living up to the reasons I became a singer in the first place?
I sing what I sing. And that's recitals and orchestra concerts. To appease - no, that's not the right word - let's say to satisfy - any opera urgings that my public has, I'll put in an aria.
Wynton and Christopher were really great experiences for me because they are both very gifted artists.
Wherever and whenever I sing, if there is only one spiritual on a program, people will talk about two things afterward, and one of them will be the spiritual. What I bring to this is the best of my classical training - not all of it. I apply what is appropriate.
I can't imagine life without singing.
Some of the music I listen to is pop. I sing it in the shower - and then for public consumption.
When I do concerts and recitals, the two most common requests are spirituals and opera.
I hear music that comes out of need, out of grief, sorrow, suffering and out of overcoming these things, as well. That journey to freedom still goes on today. It's an incremental change, the culmination of many events in your own life and the lives of your children and grandchildren.
Some of the things that have been the most meaningful to me have been experiences I've shared with my family.
I think for more than half of my career, I have refrained from talking to the media.
I'm a consumer as well as a performer. Among my leisure-time activities is going to the theater. I'm very interested in that.
People are drawn to the spiritual. It has a universal appeal.