Mission and History
Meridian Herald engages southern musical, literary and spiritual traditions to affirm shared humanity, advance enduring truth, enrich the present and transform the future for individuals and communities.
Meridian Herald produces concerts, story-telling, worship services and educational programs honoring the heritage and enduring power of culture, history and music in the ethnically diverse American South. In these ways we facilitate new understandings and shared expressions of the human experience.
Our events include the Higher Ground Camp Meeting, the Southern Folk Advent and the Atlanta Music Festival Concert. The music, ranging from classical to folk, African American to Appalachian, sacred to secular, traditional to avantgarde, is performed by the Meridian Chorale and other groups and soloists.
Speakers include preachers, actors, poets, historians, novelists and playwrights.
Through these profound and moving experiences, Meridian Herald affirms shared humanity, facilitates new understanding, and serves the human longing for a sacred higher ground.
"Meridian Herald strives to transform lives and culture through traditions of music and worship that bridge communities, redeem and honor the past, inspire the present, and ennoble the future."
Meridian Herald promotes the interaction of culture, communities, and music, bridging traditions of the past and present. Since 1997, through a combination of worship, folk-based and educational activities, Meridian Herald has explored and advanced various strands of Southern (and specificallyGeorgian) cultural history.
These events feature an array of actors, writers, historians, musicians, preachers, and
scholars of religion, many with deep Georgia ties. Rooted in folkways, yet informed by and fluent in contemporary disciplines, Meridian Herald strengthens Georgia's appreciation for the wisdom of previous eras and thus fulfills a unique and vital community need.
For these events, our director, Dr. Steven Darsey, mines area archives for the history, literature, spiritual practices, and music of Georgia. Thus Meridian Herald's "Folk Advent" and "Folk Passion" programs are original creations based on texts and tunes from Georgia's Sacred Harp tunebook of 1844. Research into Georgia poet Sidney Lanier resulted in his new settings of Lanier's "Song of the Chattahoochee," "Life and Song," and "The Marshes of Glynn." For a recent Atlanta Music Festival, we presented an important early twentieth-century work by African American composer Dorothy Rudd Moore on texts of Langston Hughes discovered in Emory's archives, and, in collaboration with Dr. Rudolph Byrd of Emory University, made James Weldon Johnson archival materials available to Atlanta public school children.
In 2001 Dr. Dwight Andrews and Dr. Darsey began the Atlanta Music Festival based on a revitalization of the Atlanta Colored Music Festival of the early twentieth century, emphasizing African American concert music. (See New Georgia Encyclopedia.) In 2011, in collaboration with Emory University, the Music Festival expanded to a week‐long series of events and featured international opera star and Atlanta native Indra Thomas. The festival included workshops with Ms. Thomas for Georgia public and private school students at Woodward Academy, a vocal workshop at Emory for college students, a composition workshop with renowned composer T. J. Anderson, and an event at Atlanta Symphony Hall with commentary and a performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by 577 Atlanta area 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students; teaching them the origin of the hymn, its influence on generations of Americans and others throughout the world, and the power of its music and verse. The week culminated with a gala performance at Emory's Schwartz Center with Ms. Thomas, the First Congregational Chancel Choir, the Morehouse College Glee Club, and the Meridian Chorale and soloists offering spirituals and concert music with narration by Ambassador Andrew Young. Meridian Herald has just produced a CD, Guide My Feet: Songs of Aspiration, Hope, and Progress, including the art of Aaron Douglas, and music, poetry, and narrative from the 2011 Festival.
Proceeding annually, with large scale events in alternate years, the 2013 Festival included the same choirs and featured opera star Laquita Mitchell. One legacy of the festival is a music conservatory for Atlanta public school students. Through teaching and learning, the conservatory helps root children in their communities and their heritage within a cross‐cultural context.
The breadth and depth of Meridian Herald's exploration of history, tradition, culture, and social movement is seen in its featured performers and collaborators, including renowned preachers and story‐tellers Fred Craddock, Brooks Holifield, and Will Willimon, Atlanta actress Brenda Bynum, Atlanta poet, novelist, and playwright Pearl Cleage, composer T.J. Anderson, Atlanta composer and jazz musician Dr. Dwight Andrews, opera stars Indra Thomas, Laquita Mitchell, and Morris Robinson, Ambassador Andrew Young, the Morehouse College Glee Club, Emory archivists Randall Burkett and Pellom McDaniels, and the late Rudolph Byrd of Emory's James Weldon Johnson Institute, among others.
Meridian Herald's programs and its local television and public‐radio broadcasts have attracted audiences of thousands. Its CDs and presentations at national conferences have carried traditional cultural values to national audiences. Through advancing culture, music, and worship and bridging communities and traditions of the past and present, Meridian Herald strives to benefit present and future generations.
Meridian Herald Leadership >