Quick, name an artist who’s performed with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Gospel Choir and South of Broadway Theatre Company, appeared in Porgy and Bess, hosted a monthly improv show, given weekly church concerts, and sung the Japanese National Anthem—in Japanese. The answer? Ann Caldwell.
Blessed with range and talent, this accomplished jazz and blues vocalist also embraces spiritual and gospel music. “Spirituals had their roots in rural America with slaves who worked the plantations,” she says. “Gospel grew later, as urban centers developed. With jazz, I tend to be more playful and free, but I handle gospel reverently. There are moments when I sing that I feel God’s presence.” In addition to regular “Praise House” concerts at Circular Congregational Church, early this month, Caldwell performs at Drayton Hall with The Magnolia Singers, a vocal ensemble that preserves the tradition of Gullah music, spirituals, and culture, telling the stories of African American ancestors through song.
With producer Julian Gooding, Caldwell also recently founded “Acoustic Porch,” a variety show of spoken word, storytelling, poetry, blues, jazz, Latin, gospel, and spirituals. As host and bandleader, she invites attendees to reflect on performances and share personal stories.
This continuously evolving artist breaches the boundaries of personal expression, singing, she says, “because the spirit moves me.”