Castle of our Skins collaboration with Gardner Museum, focusing on spirituals and classical music

Posted on: April 21, 2021

Castle of Our Skins violinist Gabriela Diaz performs at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as part of a new series, “Witness: Spirituals and the Classical Music Tradition.”


“When violist Ashleigh Gordon cofounded Castle of our Skins, the Boston collective that celebrates Black artistry in all its forms, she wasn’t drawn to performing spirituals,” writes A.Z. Madonna in Sunday’s (4/18) Boston Globe. “This changed after Castle of Our Skins participated in … a 2018 theater project with Front Porch Collective that honored Boston-based tenor Roland Hayes, one of the first Black singers to record art song repertoire … as well as a passionate advocate for spirituals…. This spring, Gordon and other Castle artists are collaborating with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on ‘Witness: Spirituals and the Classical Music Tradition,’ a four-episode video series…. Each episode focuses on one song. The second video, which centers on ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ was released Friday…. The museum’s copy of the 1914 collection ‘Afro-American Folksongs,’ a volume Isabella Stewart Gardner kept on her bookshelf, [features] arrangements of spirituals by the composer Harry T. Burleigh [and other] Black composers [who] arranged multitudes of spirituals or drew on the material for original compositions…. The museum commissioned a modern performing edition [of a William Dawson solo violin sonata] for Castle of our Skins. It can be heard on the first ‘Witness’ video, released last month.”