The Abyssinian Baptist Church Cathedral Choir is one of two principal choirs at the renowned 200-year-old faith institution where Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III is pastor. James Davis Jr. has also served as chief musical conductor since his appointment by Dr. Butts to the position of Director, Music Ministries and Fine Arts in January 2008.
A multi-talented and versatile chorale, the Cathedral Choir not only presents a vast collection of sacred and classical music, oratorios, anthems, and hymns (particularly works by African American composers), but also explores music of the entire African American worship experience. Davis has expanded the choir’s scope by including in its repertoire a consistent offering of Negro Spirituals and gospel, both traditional and contemporary.
The Cathedral Choir plays an integral part in the divine worship services at Abyssinian, and over many years has rendered numerous notable concert performances, including Verdi’s Requiem with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. The choir was also featured with Skitch Henderson and The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, and with the Boston Pops Orchestra at Boston Symphony Hall; it also performed at the inauguration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Most recently, in celebration of Abyssinian’s bicentennial in 2008, the choir shared center stage with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in the world premiere of a first-ever jazz Mass, Abyssinian 200: A Celebration, specially commissioned for the church’s milestone commemoration by Wynton Marsalis.
Throughout its stellar history, the Cathedral Choir has collaborated with several artists in various musical genres, including opera diva Leontyne Pric, R&B duo Ashford & Simpson, and Grammy-winning neo-soul pianist John Legend.