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Albert J. McNeil Collection

 Collection
Identifier: SPC-2018-002

Scope and Contents

The materials in the Albert J. McNeil Collection consist of records, photographs, programs, clippings, press releases, publications, sheet music, and audio and video recordings that document McNeil's work as the director of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, his teaching career, work as choral director for various churches, and his personal life.

This collection is part the Georgia & Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music in association with the African Diaspora of Sacred Music and Musicians (ADSMM) Program. The Payton Archive comprises of music, books, periodicals, documents, audio visual materials, and oral histories with a mission to facilitate research and preserve and make accessible collections documenting the influence of sacred music (church music and religious concert music) within the African diaspora in Los Angeles specifically and Southern California generally. The physical materials are housed at the CSUDH Gerth Archives and Special Collections.

Dates

  • 1920-2012

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

Albert John Joseph McNeil is an American choral conductor, ethnomusicologist, author, and founder of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. His career has been dedicated to upholding choral music traditions with the presentation of Negro spirituals and concert music by African American composers. He is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Davis, where he was director of choral activities for 22 years and headed the Music Education Program.

McNeil was born Alfredo Morales Sanchez on February 14, 1920 in Los Angeles, California. He was adopted by John and Rodia McNeil, former vaudeville and minstrel show performers. He grew up in Watts, California with his two sisters, Dorothea and Rena. He learned to play the piano and organ and played for numerous weddings, receptions, luncheons, etc. His original ambition was to be a medical doctor, but his love of music led him to study in that field. At 17, was hired as the minister of music for the People’s Independent Church of Christ.

McNeil's adopted parents maintained friendships with a variety of musical and theatrical artists in Los Angeles, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Lionel Hampton, as well as distinguished names in choral music such as Hall Johnson and Jester Hairston.

He earned his undergraduate University of California, Los Angeles in 1942 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education and teaching credentials in elementary and secondary education. Soon after, he was awarded his master's degree in choral conducting from UCLA. While McNeil was a student at UCLA he directed the church choirs at the First Baptist Church and the People's Independent Church of Christ.

He began his teaching career as a teacher of music in the elementary, junior and senior high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. During his early years of teaching elementary school he was accepted into the Doctor of Musical Arts choral conducting degree program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He continued his doctoral studies at the Westminster Choir College and with a fellowship at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

McNeil was frequently called upon by Central Casting of Hollywood to be the on-set choral assistant whenever they needed black singers or background actors, including Porgy and Bess, Carmen Jones, and The Land of the Pharaohs. It was from this group of performers that the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers would first be formed.

In 1953, McNeil married Helen Rambo. Their son, Richard "Ricky" John McNeil, was born 1959.

McNeil founded the Georgia Laster chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1961. Also served as NANM’s Western Regional Director for a time.

In 1968, McNeil was invited to teach courses in music education and direct the choral ensembles at the University of California at Davis. He was the head of the music education program and director of choral activities for 21 years, took the UC Davis chorus to England France Russia, china Tahiti and Australia. While at Davis, spent 10 years as the director for the Sacramento Chorale and co-founded the Sacramento symphony chorus.

In addition to his teaching and work with the Jubilee Singers, McNeil was active in the church choir community. He was Minister of Music at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles for over 30 years, as well as the Director of Music at the Founder’s Church of Religious Science.

Throughout McNeil's career he was in high demand as an adjudicator and clinician. He was often invited to conduct children, youth, and adult honor choirs and present interest sessions on the spirituals. He also co-authored and edited music education textbooks for the Silver-Burdett-Ginn Publishing Company. He has served as a valued member on the board of directors for Chorus America, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and National Endowment for the Arts.

McNeil retired from UC Davis in 1990. In retirement, he devoted much of his time to the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers and their tours. In 2003, McNeil was inducted as a "Living Legend" into the California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians (ADSMM). Later that same year, he was given honorary Doctor of Music degrees from California State University at Northridge and in 2010 he was awarded the prestigious Westminster Choir College of Rider University, New Jersey.

Historical Note

The Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers (AMJS), known as "America's foremost Negro choir," have played a significant role in the development of African American sacred music traditions in the United States and are among the most honored singing ensembles in the world. The AMJS was founded by choral director Albert McNeil. McNeil was inspired by the story of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, an all black college choir founded in 1871, made up of four black men and seven black women who gained international fame traveling throughout the United States and Europe giving concerts singing four-part a cappella arrangements of sacred songs called spirituals.

In 1968, the AMJS went on their first European tour. Since then, they have travled the globe on 18 sold-out European tours, 12 tours of the United States and Canada, and tours of the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America. They were selected three times to serve the U.S. State Department and USIS Cultural Exchange Program, traveling to East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Iran, India, North and West Africa, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

Extent

53.59 Linear Feet

87 boxes

3 folders : 3 oversize folders

Language of Materials

Multiple languages

Overview

Albert John Joseph McNeil is an American choral conductor, ethnomusicologist, author, and founder of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. His career has been dedicated to upholding choral music traditions with the presentation of Negro spirituals and concert music by African American composers. He is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Davis, where he was director of choral activities for 22 years and headed the Music Education Program.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into the following series: 1. Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, 2. Professional Career, 3. Personal papers, 4. Music
Title
The Albert J. McNeil Collection
Status
Completed
Author
Beth McDonald
Date
2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
University Library South -5039 (Fifth Floor)
1000 E. Victoria St.
Carson CA 90747
310-243-3895