She may not be as famous or widely recognized as the artists from American Idol, but many would call Randye Jones of Temple Hills a cultural idol who exposes the beauty and art of the Negro spiritual.
Jones' exploration of Negro spirituals has led her down paths as a researcher, an artist and a producer. Recently released in August 2003, her CD "Come Down Angels" is a compilation of recordings from three recitals held in the metropolitan area.
According to Jones, the CD is only the first step in a process designed to educate and "develop a primary resource for singers, teachers and musicologists."
By providing the relevant historic background and context along with the technical and vocal aspects of the emotions conveyed by the slaves who created the genre, Jones hopes to make it easier for students and voice teachers to perform these songs.
This project hasn't been any crystal staircase for Jones, who said she had to break down many barriers to get the CD produced. Working solely with the help of her pianist, Francis Conlon, Jones has had to struggle against those who don't necessarily take an interest in the Negro spiritual as an art form.
With most record labels more concerned with finding and being associated with the next pop idol, Jones has had to campaign aggressively in order to finance the project. Another difficulty, said Jones, is that it is "hard to find others who take an active interest in classical music, particularly in the spiritual genre."
Recording from live performances often proved an added complexity, with problems arising from not being able to control sound as well as in a studio. She often had to rerecord or exclude entire performances.
"Some of the pieces that I had wanted to do we could not use because there was just too much background noise," Jones said. "Not audience noise--that's expected with a live performance--but fire engines and that kind of noise made the recording a bit of a challenge."
After the recordings were compiled, Jones still faced the task of finding a technician who was comfortable with recording the unique and rich sounds of classical vocal music, especially with the majority of studios only set up to work with the beats of pop music or hip hop.
Now that Jones is finished with the CD, she hopes to change beats. She will continue the project by working on a book that will complement the CD. Jones expects the entire project to be finished within two years.
With the book still to come, Jones appreciates any information or interest by those would like to become a part of the project.
Visit www.ahhjay.com for more information on the CD, or go to www.artofthenegrospiritual.com for more information Negro spirituals.
CDs cost $12.99 each, plus $4 shipping, and $1 for each additional CD.
They can be purchased by sending a check or money order to: PO Box 645, Temple Hills, MD, 20748.