An evening to celebrate two journeys: the extraordinary life of Thomas Rutling, who was born a slave in Tennessee and died in Harrogate a hundred years ago; and the journey from the music he sang – negro spirituals with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the 1870s – to the electrifying sounds of gospel music today.

Featuring the celebrated tenor Ronald Samm, extracts from Rutling’s autobiography and some of Yorkshire’s finest gospel voices, this an evening for anyone who loves music and history and the link between the two.

Also featuring Joe Williams, Jhardine Farrell, Leroy Johnson and the Celebration Choir.

In 1915, Thomas Rutling, an international classical tenor, died in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. It marked the end of an extraordinary life that had begun in 1854 in Wilson County, Tennessee. Rutling was the son of a slave.

Following his emancipation in 1863, Rutling moved to Nashville and eventually entered Fisk School (now Fisk University), established for the sons and daughters of freed slaves. He joined the Fisk Jubilee Singers who toured Europe between 1872 and 1877, bringing Spiritual music to these shores for the first time.

Thomas chose not to return to America, but stayed in Europe to pursue a career as a teacher and singer. He settled in Harrogate where he died 100 years ago.

Thomas Rutling
Ronald Samm ©Jack Liebeck

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