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Toni Anderson, Music Historian, on
Taking the choir on the road

Toni Anderson Anderson : By the month of October, in 1871, White knew that it was "sink or swim" time. He was either going to go, or the school would very possibly fold. So he decided, even though he had lacked the endorsement of the AMA, that he would venture out. At this point, all of the teachers came to his cause, helping to provide some clothing for the students. They were poorly clad. They didn’t have the kind of clothing that they needed for a cold winter up north. Some of the female singers had only cloth slippers. They had borrowed coats from some of the teachers. And off they went, in Ella Sheppard’s words, "looking like a ragtag troupe wearing coats of many colors, like Joseph."

Just give me a sense of what he’s biting into here.

Anderson : When George White left with his singers he probably didn’t realize how big of a task he had just undertaken. Not only had he prepared the students musically, with the help of Ella Sheppard, who was an invaluable assistant to him, but he also had to do all of the other work to make the enterprise work, to make this campaign a success. So many times he would have to leave Ella Sheppard with the students, with the rest of the singers, to get ready for the next concert, while he went ahead to the next city. There, he would have to secure a hall, talk with all of the ministers in the area to try to drum up support, build an audience, advertise. All of that kind of advance work fell into his lap, plus finding the transportation, finding the lodging, which was in itself quite an ordeal. Many times he would have to leave the students at the station, because no hotel would take them in, and go up and down the streets knocking on doors, to try to find Christian people who would house the singers overnight. It was an incredible job that later, once the AMA finally lent their support, would take five men to do the work that he had done alone.

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