New special honoring The Blind Boys of Alabama premiering on PBS February 9

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This new concert documentary chronicles the career of one of Alabama’s premier musical groups. (Nathan Watson / The Bama Buzz)

This February, a new documentary dedicated to The Blind Boys of Alabama will premiere on Alabama Public Television. The show chronicles the history of the five-time Grammy-winning musical group and includes an orchestral arrangement of The Blind Boys’ classic hits.

The Blind Boys significance to Alabama history

The Blind Boys of Alabama formed in 1939 by five visually impaired teenagers from the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind. In the face of racial discrimination and segregation in the South, the group defied the odds and rose to national success.

The Blind Boys went from singing on local Birmingham radio to performing at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Grammy Awards and the Gospel Hall of Fame. They worked with artists like Prince, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel and their cover of “Way Down in the Hole” was used as the theme song of HBO’s The Wire.

A Symphony Celebration: The Blind Boys of Alabama with Dr. Henry Panion III

The one-hour concert documentary features an exclusive performance arranged by celebrated composer and UAB music professor Dr. Henry Panion III. Performed at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, the show honors The Blind Boys’ music with a troupe of star-studded local talent.

The show’s talent includes:

  • A full orchestra featuring members of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra
  • A 300-person combined choir comprised of students from Alabama State, Miles College, Birmingham Southern College, Alabama A&M, Tuskegee University, Talladega College and the UAB Department of Music

In a UAB press release about the performance, Dr. Panion commented on the historical significance of the musical group and the adversity they faced.

“It is really unbelievable in many ways when you think about having to grow up like they did, singing and being invited to the White House, but not being able to get a good hot meal in certain restaurants, in certain places in our country. But that did not change them. If anything, it made them embrace who they were and develop a greater sense of love for our country and our people. I think it is all about hope.”

Dr. Henry Panion III

Check out “A Symphony Celebration”

“A Symphony Celebration” will premiere at the Alabama Theatre on Thursday, February 1 at 7PM. Admission is free to the public, however it is recommended to reserve tickets online. The Blind Boys of Alabama will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.

The special will air on Alabama Public Television on Friday, February 9 at 9:30PM.

Will you be tuning in for this special? Tag us @bhamnow and let us know!

Grace Howard
Grace Howard
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