Timeless Lowcountry Discovery

Charleston Music…
From Gospel to Gershwin

Charleston Music is Rich in History ~

Don’t Miss The Sound of Charleston’s 11th Concert Season  

You can’t help but indulge a nostalgic smile when the first notes of “Summertime” resonate from within the iconic performance setting. And you’ll likely agree after the 75-minute show ends, the livin’ is easy. While reveling in the sounds, you’ll equally enjoy learning notable historical facts about Gershwin’s classic, and other highly recognizable tunes. 

“Summertime …. and the livin’ is easy.” Not only is this the opening line of George Gershwin’s classic “Summertime” from his opera “Porgy & Bess”, written on Charleston’s Folly Beach, it is a feeling that embodies life in the Lowcountry. Charleston music is indeed rich in history, and now you can see and hear these and other musical moments come alive in an iconic and intimate downtown church.

The Sound of Charleston, now starting its 11th season of concerts at Circular Congregational Church, recreates this history through live, weekly 75-minute concerts featuring the area’s finest musicians. Founded in 2010 to entertain history-seeking visitors, The Sound of Charleston launched as a new concert series. 500 performances later, tourists and locals continue flocking for anticipated entertainment and education. What audiences seldom expect are the emotional evocations that elicit gratitude’s joy.

“Our shows are entertaining, educational, and emotional”, says co-founder Yvonne Evans, who notes one of the main things visitors come to Charleston for is her history. “This show is rich in history”, she adds.

Gospel spirituals, music of the Civil War, jazz, and light classics of the St. Cecilia Society, all with Charleston music roots, are also featured in the show with narration by the affable host, William Schlitt, a veteran musician, actor and co-artistic director.

Listening to Charleston music at The Sound of Charleston's concerts is one of the most entertaining things to do in historic downtown.
Courtesy The Sound of Charleston

Local treasure Ann Caldwell sings “Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot,” elaborating on the messages secretly encoded in gospel spirituals that the ancestors used to communicate with each other as they endured a hard life of slavery. She also shares a Gullah language story to explain the English-based creole language spoken by slaves in South Carolina and Georgia.

Most people don’t realize that the St. Cecilia Society was formed in Charleston in 1766 as a private subscription concert organization. Over the next 54 years, its annual concert series formed the most sophisticated musical phenomenon in North America. The show features several selections heard at those elegant concerts, both vocal and instrumental.

Charleston music and its history comes alive through Sound of Charleston's concert series.
Charleston music and its history comes alive through The Sound of Charleston’s concert series. Courtesy The Sound of Charleston

Jazz also has a rich history in Charleston dating back to 1891 when Reverend Daniel Jenkins founded an orphanage and a brass band to help raise money for his cause. That band later became the Jenkins Orphanage Band and toured the country, playing with many jazz legends. Frequently during the performances you will hear selections played by that original band.

My favorite part of the show is the conclusion, where the cast joins in singing “Amazing Grace. You see, composer John Newton worshipped in Circular Church — then called Charleston Meeting House — for several weeks and later drew on the inspiration to compose perhaps the world’s favorite hymn.

It’s very emotional to think that you may be sitting where John Newton sat when he was inspired.

Bill Perry, Co-founder | Producer

The Sound of Charleston performs weekly throughout most of the year. Six December Holiday Editions also include sounds of the season, a satisfying addition of recognizable yuletide favorites.

Details and tickets are available at www.soundofcharleston.com.