UAB student gospel choir to perform at Aberystwyth

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Gospel Choir

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Gospel Choir

01 June 2023

Students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) will perform at Aberystwyth Bandstand at 2pm on Sunday 4 June as guests of Aberystwyth University. 

The 25-strong UAB Gospel Choir is touring Wales to mark 60 years since the people of Wales contributed towards the creation of a new stained-glass window following the bombing of a church in the city.

Four young girls were killed and many others injured by the explosion at the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham, Alabama on 15 September 1963.

The terrible events of that day took place during the American civil rights movement and prompted Llansteffan artist John Petts to raise money to design a stained-glass window for the church.

Funded by small contributions from people across Wales, the Wales Window depicts a black Jesus with arms outstretched and is installed in the church’s south facing front window. The church reopened in June 1964. 

The Aberystwyth concert is the latest in a series of events that has seen the choir perform at the Senedd in the company of Wales’ First Minister, and the Urdd National Eisteddfod which is taking place this week in Llandovery.

The choir’s stay in Aberystwyth is being hosted by the University and will include a visit to the National Library of Wales where they will be able to see the original designs for 16th Street Baptist Church window.

The visit will also be an opportunity to celebrate a Memorandum of Understanding signed by UAB and Aberystwyth University in 2020 that has paved the way for UAB students to spend a whole semester studying at Aberystwyth.

Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan, Director of Welsh Language and External Engagement at Aberystwyth University said: “It is an honour to welcome members of the UAB Gospel Choir to the University and to perform for the people of Aberystwyth, especially as we celebrate a significant milestone in our history, our 150th anniversary.  Throughout our history there has been a wealth of connections between Aberystwyth University and the United States, indeed the very first international student, who joined us in 1875, was from the United States.

These connections are as strong today as they have ever been and we take great pride is the welcome afforded to our US visitors and the many opportunities we have provided for our students to study in the US over many years. Long may this continue.”

Accompanying the choir on their visit to Wales will be Reginald Jackson, Gospel Choir Director and Patrick Evans, Chair of the University’s Department of Music along with Erica Stevens Head of South US for Welsh Government at the British Consulate General in Atlanta, Georgia.

Speaking at the signing the Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities, Suzanne Austin, UAB’s former senior vice provost and senior international officer said: “International studies open so many new doors. UAB students will learn in such unique ways while at Aberystwyth, not just in their areas of study, but in how a unique partnership arising from a difficult time in history can change outlooks and viewpoints in ways that make the world better.”

Free and open to everyone, the choir’s concert at Aberystwyth Bandstand will include a collection towards the University’s Charity of the Year for 2022/23, the Bronglais General Hospital Chemotherapy Day Unit.