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April 12, 2022 | By Laura Soldati
Acclaimed soprano Maria Clark and award-winning pianist/composer Maria Thompson Corley have released a new album of spirituals and hymns called Soul Sanctuary. Released on Navona Records, and recorded at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA, Soul Sanctuary features entirely new versions of spirituals from the past two centuries. The album's new arrangements are for piano, solo soprano voice, and cello, which creates classical and operatic crossover, and a truly authentic musical experience.
Soul Sanctuary is available for download or streaming on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer, You Tube Music, and at navonarecords.com.
The album includes new arrangements of “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “Wade in the Water,” “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” “Motherless Child,” and many others. Acclaimed cellist and recording artist Ismail Akbar performs on three songs, “His Name So Sweet,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Deep River.”
Soul Sanctuary recently hit #27 on Amazon's “Best Seller for New Classical Music List,” and has been hailed as “gorgeous,” “Intensely emotional,” and “an uplifting outlook in these times of adversity.”
Atlanta-based Maria Clark, is an acclaimed soprano and a senior lecturer of vocal studies at Spelman College and Emory University. She has performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras around the world.
Jamaican-born, Canadian-raised Maria Thompson Corley’s music has been commissioned, performed, recorded, and/or taught by numerous musicians in the United States and abroad. Her work has been featured in films and on television soundtracks, as well as on radio and digital platforms, nationally and internationally. Thompson Corley lives and teaches in Lancaster, PA.
The physical CD of Soul Sanctuary is slated for distribution in Summer 2022 by Naxos Records.
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Maria Clark has been acclaimed for her virtuosic and expressive singing in Opera, Oratorio, and Art Song, and has been said to possess, “The Voice of An Angel.” One of the most important aspects of her vocal abilities is her superb control of a very large instrument, all while presenting a beautiful, rich, and layered voice.
In 2020, Clark was the soloist for several high profile events and successfully competed in vocal competitions. She performed at the Progressive National Baptist Convention, which included Stacey Abrams as the keynote speaker, and John Lewis and Andrew Young as special guests. Clark also performed at the Toni Morrison Memorial Concert in Atlanta GA, which was commissioned by the Toni Morrison Society. She has also appeared on PBS performing in the Opera Goes to Churchseries. Ms. Clark is the Oxnard Gold Medal winner of the 2004 American Traditions Competition, and was a winner in the West Palm Beach Opera competition. She has enjoyed performing opera throughout Europe and South America, and has performed with symphony orchestras around the world. She is the senior lecturer of vocal studies at Spelman College, and also instructs voice at Emory University. More info can be found at mariaclarksings.com.
ABOUT MARIA THOMPSON CORLEY, pianist/composer
A graduate of the University of Alberta (B.M., Piano) and The Juilliard School (M.M., D.M.A., Piano), Maria Thompson Corley has performed in venues like the Liszt Academy. Her solo and collaborative recordings are released by Naxos, Albany, MSR Classical, and others. Excerpts from her albums have been featured in films and television soundtracks, as well as on radio and digital platforms, nationally and internationally.
Corley’s short-form opera The Sky Where You Are (Jenny O’Connell, librettist) premiered in 2020 as part of The Decameron Opera Coalition’s award-winning virtual series, Tales from a Safe Distance. The Place (Sandra Oyinloye, librettist) was commissioned by Lyric Opera of the North for DOC’s subsequent production. An Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, Corley was chosen for the 2020-21 American National Association of Teachers of Singing mentorship program, and in 2021-2022 was asked to become a mentor in the same program. Her publishers include Walton, Classical Vocal Reprints, NoteNova, and North Star. Her music has been commissioned, performed, recorded, and/or taught by numerous musicians in the United States and abroad. More info can be found at mariacorley.com.
ABOUT ISMAIL AKBAR, cello
Born in Atlanta, Ga., Ismail Akbar received his Bachelors of Music degree in cello performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Masters of Music from Mercer University studying with Christopher Rex and Julie Alber. Mr. Akbar has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout
Panama, Bahamas, Russia and Italy. In fall of 2012 Mr. Akbar won the Concerto Competition at the University of South Carolina with the Dvorak Cello Concerto. While performing as section cellist with the Oberlin Orchestra, he performed in Carnegie Hall under the baton of Robert Spano performing works by Mozart, Jennifer Higdon and Bartok. During the summer, he has been to Brevard Music Center, Interlochen Arts Academy, Encore School for Strings and Aspen Music Festival.
As a graduate of the prestigious Talent Development Program he was given the opportunity to perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Spano playing the Boccherini Cello Concerto. He has held substitute positions as principal and assistant principal cellist of Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Verdi Chamber Symphony, North Georgia Chamber Symphony, Ludwig Symphony Orchestra and South Carolina Philharmonic. On a different note, he has recorded and performed extensively with Outkast, Take 6, Neil Sedaka, James Torme, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Monica, Edie Levert, Van Hunt, Jori, Frank McComb, Dionne Farris, Joi Gilliam and Wycliffe Gordon.