The name “Jubilee” means an occasion of celebration and “jubilant” means of expressing great joy. Knowing that there is always an occasion to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy, Rev. Charles G. Adams felt that “Jubilee” would be an excellent name for our newly formed gospel choir, which was organized on February 9, 1981.
On the fourth Sunday of March in 1981, under the direction of the late Theodore Hubbard, the “Jubilee” gospel chorus emerged proclaiming God’s word in song and providing all of the emotional and spiritual uplifting that gospel music brings. The 113-member chorus marched down the aisles of the sanctuary, jubilantly singing, “How I Got Over”. Dr. Donald Johnson served as organist; D’Andrea Newcomb, the pianist; and Mildred Dobey as Minister of Music. Geraldine Smith was appointed President, and Dorothy Cleveland, Dorothy Hall, and Floyd Johnson served to facilitate all of the chorus activities until officers were elected. The first President elected was the late William Anderson, II. Mr. Hubbard, with his strong traditional gospel musical background, led the Jubilee Chorus to sing at many locations throughout the Detroit Metropolitan Area, as well as out of state.
In September of 1983, Mr. W. James Abbington, Jr., Ph.D., (Jimmie) was appointed as Director of the Jubilee Chorus. In 1984, under Dr. Abbington’s direction, the Jubilee Chorus, along with the choirs from St. James and Unity Missionary Baptist Churches, were the first African American gospel choirs to sing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The late Donald Vails was the coordinator of this “Gospel with the Symphony” event. During Dr. Abbington’s term as Director, and later, as Minister of Music, the Jubilee Chorus was named ‘Choir of the Year’ by the Detroit Free Press. People from all walks of life came to hear the Jubilee Chorus.
Jubilee performed for many special events, such as the Jewish Bi-Centennial Celebration at Orchestra Hall; the Heritage Festival at Greenfield Village; NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner; Dearborn Symphony Orchestra; Warren Symphony Orchestra; and songs with Vicki Winans. There were more out-of-state travels to sing in places like New York, NY; Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Memphis, TN; Toronto, Canada; and Nassau, Bahamas.
Hartford and the Jubilee Chorus have been blessed with many fine Directors, such as the brilliant Dr. Wayne Barr, who became the Director in 1996, after Dr. Abbington. The next year, Dr. Robert Townsend, a Professor of Music at Wayne State University, served as the Director. He brought with him the first all African American Chamber Orchestra to perform with the Jubilee Chorus at the annual concert in 1997. Our own talented Dr. Donald Johnson then served as Director until 2001. Dr. Johnson was always there when the Jubilee Chorus needed him. In 2001, the late Leslie Jackson, who was an authority on gospel music, became the Chorus Director. He believed that Chorus members should know the origin of the songs in order to produce the sound he wanted. That same year, Mr. Everett Williams became the Minister of Music and Director of the Jubilee Chorus. He came to Hartford with years of experience as a dynamic director and musician.
During these years, our accompanists were without equal. The keyboard skills of Dr. Donald Johnson, Mr. Vernon Fails, and Mr. Darryl Houston, added a special sound to the Jubilee Chorus, leaving audiences amazed.
In 2005, Mr. Alvin Waddles became Director of the Jubilee Chorus. He brought with him years of musical knowledge and experience in a wide variety of musical genres, and has sought to uphold the glorious standard of excellence set by his predecessors. Mr. Brian Gary, an accomplished director, teacher, and composer in his own right, brings his formidable gifts on the Hammond organ as the accompanist for the choir
The Jubilee Chorus Ministry celebrates 30 years of singing praises to God and serving Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.