More studies and research are being done and will continue to be done over the next few years to help bring more light to the large body of music, Ransley said.
The Festival of Spirituals started 45 years ago when Tom Carey and Carol Brice Carey moved to Norman.
“Putting Cimarron Opera together has been like putting back together pieces of a puzzle. There are things stuffed in drawers, there are stories that are left in people’s minds that they knew of Tom or Carol that they’ve done since they’ve moved here,” Ransley said. “The very first thing they did was this festival.”
The two were invited by the OU Fine Arts department to come as artists in residence. They had international careers, sang everywhere and even well known arrangers arranged spirituals specifically for Carol because they loved her voice and wanted her to sing this music, Ransley said.
“And they came here to Norman, Oklahoma in 1969,” she said. “And some of you that have lived here since 1969 know that in Norman, Oklahoma in 1969, that may not have been the friendliest place for these people to live.”
Ransley said Norman was a sundown town at the time, which means if you were a person of color, when the sun went down you needed to be on the other side of the city limits.
“To me this speaks of a bravery that I could only ever hope to try to get a corner of a piece of,” she said. “It’s their spirit that drives what we do to put this together.”
In tribute to the couple, songs the two had previously recorded were played Sunday for the crowd.
All of the music was well received by the crowd that gathered at the church Sunday night for the festival. Ransley gave a big thanks to First Presbyterian for donating space for Cimarron Opera to operate out of for nearly 40 years.