The American Spiritual Ensemble is bringing the history and soul of American Negro spiritual music to Boston in their first tour of the Northeast.

“I call it the 'mother music.' It's the music that helped America find its voice,” Everett McCorvey, founder of the ensemble, said on Boston Public Radio on Tuesday.

McCorvey grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, listening to spirituals — the religious folk songs of African people enslaved in the American South.

“This music has a historical value because during slavery it was the music that helped the people get across,” he explained.

Even today, people sing the roughly 3,000 Negro spirituals as a way to get through difficult times, he added.

When McCorvey became a professional musician, he wanted to ensure that the tradition remained alive, so he founded the American Spiritual Ensemble in 1995. The group now travels around the world.

For Angela Brown, a decorated singer who has performed with the ensemble for 25 years, singing spirituals reminds her of growing up in the Black church.

“Even though spirituals aren't necessarily church music, the message that they have is universal. And it just feels like a warm hug from Mama,” she said.

Negro spirituals are distinctly American, said McCorvey. And other American music traditions owe their origins to the spirituals, including jazz, blues and gospel. The “call and response” of today’s popular music can also trace its roots back to spirituals, he said.

The American Spiritual Ensemble’s appearance was coordinated through Music Worcester. For more information on the group’s April 6th show at Curtis Performance Hall, go to

The American Spiritual Ensemble, whose performance on Boston Public Radio was arranged through Music Worcester, has three performances in Massachusetts this week. They’ll be performing at Emmanuel Church in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, at Berklee’s Seully Hall on Saturday, April 6 at 12 p.m. and at Assumption University’s Curtis Performance Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday.