Royal Serenaders

To be able to say that you continuously conducted the same chorus in Buffalo for 68 years, you would have had to begin at age 19 and have lived to be 87. If you grew up in Chattanooga and were black, you would have had to attend a segregated high school, and your chances of even being introduced to the study of music might have been in jeopardy. And who would have dreamed that someday you might appear as a guest chorus at War Memorial Stadium for the first annual Negro "Cotillion" on June 22, 1957, attended by 3,000 people? Or that you might for a time transform your chorus into the Shrine Chanters of Hadji Temple No. 61, travelling to conventions and becoming national champions in 1981? What were the chances of all that happening for Roy Mathis, the grandson of Mary Isabelle Matthews, an American slave?

Well, it all really happened. Roy was born in 1926, the "baby" of the family of 10 children. He was introduced to music by Edmonia Simmons, a dedicated teacher at his high school in Tennessee. When he moved to Buffalo in 1945, Roy corralled his older siblings, James, Cecil, and Theodore, to form the Royal Serenaders quartet, rehearsing at the piano in his sister Bertha's home.

By 1947, the group expanded to six members and later to nearly 20. In its heyday in the 1960s, the group was in constant demand, had its own radio show, and frequently performed multiple concerts on weekends.

This collection was donated in digital format in 2017 by Larry Van Heusen.


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