Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Community choirs come together for musical celebration of L. Stanley Davis

Samantha Powers/The Daily Northwestern
Generations of singers from the NU community and Chicago area concluded the event with a full-group rendition of “Total Praise.”

Alice Millar Chapel was filled with joyful sounds Sunday afternoon as dozens of NU community members sang, clapped and danced to gospel music. 

The concert was a tribute to L. Stanley Davis (Weinberg ’74, Communication ‘97). A former Northwestern professor and co-founder of NU’s premier gospel choir, the Northwestern Community Ensemble, Davis passed away in August 2023. 

Sunday’s event featured performances by the Chicago Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, the Alice Millar Chapel Choir and NCE. Singers concluded the event with a full-group rendition of “Total Praise.”

Communication Prof. Kent Brooks, an old friend of Davis, spoke between his performances on the piano. Although Brooks only arrived at NU two years ago, he said he knew Stanley for decades through their work together with the GMWA.

“Stanley was not only a consummate musician, a teacher and an academic historian, but he was a friend,” Brooks said. “There are so many sides to him that we celebrate, and we are grateful for that.”

Davis was one of three co-founders of NCE, which was established as a space for Black spiritual music after the 1968 Bursar’s Office Takeover.

In 1971, Davis became the choir’s first musical director. For more than half a century, NCE has served as a space for community on campus.

“Stanley was teaching Black gospel music in the time before me, and because of that, I stand on his shoulders,” Brooks said. “He paved the way for me. He opened the door for me to be here at Northwestern doing what I do.”

Brooks, who also serves as the faculty advisor for NCE, looked on proudly from the piano bench as the student choir performed musical selections. 

SESP freshman Fejiro Felix-Okpe, who joined NCE this quarter, said the experience of performing was “surreal.”

Felix-Okpe said she joined the choir because of her passion for singing. She said NCE has given her an opportunity to be creative with other music-loving members of the Black community at NU.

“Knowing the story behind how NCE was founded, the legacy it has had, the reputation it has maintained, made it a lot more special for me,” she said. “I feel really honored to be a part of something so big.”

Adrienne Andrews (Weinberg ’80), an NCE alumna, said she traveled all the way from her home in New Jersey to see the concert.

Andrews said she was looking forward to reuniting with the friends she made during her time with the choir.

“(NCE) just became my family. It really was,” Andrews said. “I can honestly tell you that this choir changed my life, and it made my being here at Northwestern so much more of a rich experience.”

Andrews added that she hopes the sense of family among members of NCE continues.

Charla Wilson, NU’s Archivist for the Black Experience, honored Davis with a historical retelling of his life and work as part of the program.

“Celebrating the life and legacy of L. Stanley Davis, I am reminded of the African proverb: ‘When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground,’” Wilson said. “Mr. Davis was that elder, who understood the importance of passing down our history — of ensuring that future generations would understand the struggles and triumphs of those who came before.”

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