Posted: August 25, 2021

Blessed Burleigh: Black. Classical. Episcopalian.

Music lovers in greater RVA and VCU … mark your calendar for Sept. 10-12 to celebrate composer and singer Harry Thacker Burleigh!

Celebrate Harry Thacker Burleigh, a saint in the Episcopal Church, known for his compositions and arrangements of spirituals to be sung by anyone who can read music, Burleigh was a dedicated church musician throughout his life.

To register for the Friday or Saturday events, please complete the online form.

Schedule at a glance

Friday, Sept 10, 2021

  • 6-7:00 p.m.: Online via Zoom: Burleigh, Scripture & Spirituals led by Paul Kwami

Saturday, Sept 11, 2021

  • 9:00 a.m.: Check-in & coffee: Community Chorus (masks required in church)
  • 9:30 a.m.: Welcome to the Community Sing (Grace & Holy Trinity Church)
  • 10:00 a.m.: Musical Offering: Nya Powell, Soprano “Dream Variations”
  • 10:30 a.m.: Rehearsal for Community Chorus Pop-Up
  • 11:45 a.m.: Musical Offering: Jana Harmon, Soprano “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”
  • 12:15 p.m.: Pop-up Performance in Monroe Park: “Oh Lord, What a Mornin’” directed by Erin Freeman, VCU
  • 2-3:00 p.m.: Audio Divina with soloist Lisa Edwards-Burrs (Grace & Holy Trinity)

Recognizing that 9/11/2021 is the 20th Anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville PA, the chapel at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will be open for prayer throughout the day.

Sunday, Sept 12, 2021

  • 9:30 a.m.: Christian formation: Life & Times of H.T. Burleigh (Grace & Holy Trinity)
  • 10:30 a.m.: Worship Service featuring music of Burleigh and other Black voices
Friday Details

On Fri. Sept. 10, Professor Paul Kwami will lead a Zoom discussion on Burleigh, Scripture and Spirituals. This conversation will focus on how to raise up Black voices, by considering the intersection of spirituals and scripture. We will discuss how to amplify rather than erase Black experience, in overwhelmingly White institutions like The Episcopal Church. This offering will be of special interest to church musicians, as well as directors in schools, and community choirs. Join us and engage in this time of considering some questions that students, musicians and music lovers are asking in the wake of racial unrest throughout the United States. Everyone is welcome to join online. 6:00-7:00 p.m. EST.

Saturday Details

On Sat. Sept. 11, Erin Freeman will lead a community chorus in Monroe Park across from GHTC & VCU. Fully vaccinated individuals will be joining in-person rehearsals and musical celebrations with a pop-up performance of “My Lord, What a Mornin’ “ at 12:15 p.m. As part of Burleigh’s legacy, we are honored to learn more from amazing Black classical musicians from VCU who will sing. Note: There is space for up to 100 singers to join this community sing; in accordance with COVID-19 protocols from the Diocese of VA and in compliance with CDC guidelines, everyone will be wearing masks. To participate in the community sing, please register online and provide proof of vaccination when you check in. The complete schedule (9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) is available at

On Sat. Sept. 11 at 2:00 p.m., you can join soloist Lisa Edwards-Burrs at Grace and Holy Trinity Church for an hour of Audio Divina. A time of reading, reflecting, and contemplating, this unique prayer experience combines scripture and song through the works of H.T. Burleigh. Everyone is welcome in the church; masks and social distancing are required.

Sunday Details

On Sun. Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m., during the worship service at Grace and Holy Trinity Church, special music highlighting Burleigh and other prominent Black voices in the Episcopal tradition will be featured. Plan to join us to learn more about the life and times of Burleigh during Christian formation at 9:30 a.m.

Harry Thacker Burleigh

A charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Burleigh was a dedicated church musician throughout his life; he became a soloist at St. George’s Episcopal Church of New York in 1894, a post he held for 50+ years. Burleigh is known for his compositions and arrangement of spirituals to be sung by anyone who can read music. In the Episcopal Church, there are Biblical saints and non-scriptural saints whose lives reflect the love of Jesus after the scriptures were canonized. We remember Harry Thacker Burleigh on September 12, the anniversary of his death.

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