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Columbia College Chicago
Collection of De Paur Chorus materials

Collection of De Paur Chorus materials

Sound recordings, photographs, and ephemera documenting the De Paur Chorus and its activities, primarily during the early 1950s.

1 box sound recordings (7 analog sound discs)
1 box ephemera and photographs.

Photographs donated by Joseph S. Lewis. Sound recordings donated by William Longstreet (2006) and Diane Smith (2008). Ephemera donated by Frances T. Matlock (2004).

Biographical/Historical note:

Leonard de Paur (1914–1998) received his musical education at Columbia University and the Institute of Musical Arts. In 1932, he became the associate conductor of the Hall Johnson Choir, and in 1936 he became the director of the New York City Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre. In 1942, de Paur joined the armed forces and was soon assigned as the musical director of the Army Air Force show, “Winged Victory.”

In the meantime, four members of the 372nd Regiment—Charles Ernie, Tommy Harris, Allen Ferguson, and Sidney Greenard—began singing together, and this group soon expanded into a glee club that provided entertainment for fellow GIs. In 1944, de Paur was assigned to direct the group, which took part in war bond rallies and radio programs. The group continued after the war and was renamed the De Paur Infantry Chorus (and subsequently, the De Paur Chorus). Touring the globe, the Chorus went on to become one of the leading choral groups in the United States and throughout the world until its disbandment in 1957.

The group's repertoire included spirituals, songs of World War II, folk songs of other countries, and religious choral works. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Chorus was the dignity and skill with which it presented the music of African Americans. De Paur reorganized the De Paur Chorus again in 1963, and this group toured extensively until 1969. De Paur received numerous awards for his contributions to music during his life. He is widely recognized as a significant figure in male choral music, as well as in African-American history and culture.

Scope note:

This collection of materials related to the De Paur Chorus is small and includes just two concert programs (with several autographs) and one clipping, but the photographs are more complete. The sound recordings reflect the variety found in their repertoire and have gone out of print. These materials complement other archival holdings highlighting African-American concert composers (both score and research collections), military music directors (see the Alton Augustus Adams Sr. papers), and the study of spirituals and work songs (see the Dena Epstein papers, among others).


Recordings from the Collection
"I've Got Sixpence" (Box/Cox/Hall/arr. de Paur)


"Vidalita" (Argentine Folk Song) Soloist: Charles Holland, tenor


"Prenda Minha (My Darling)" (Gurgel/de Paur) Soloist: Luther Saxon, tenor


"Christmas Present for Sallie" (Calypso Derived from Barbados Folk Lore)

For a sample list of the types of songs the Chorus recorded, see the ad that appeared in the program book in 1953:

Photographs from the Collection

Below are photographs from the collection featuring the chorus and of some of its individual members. Click on the photos on this page to view an enlarged photo with a caption.


Bradford


Bray


Brown


Collymore


Ernie

Fergerson

Lewis

Marshal

Peters

Saxon

Unknown