Singing with the Heart: A Traditional View of Negro Spirituals with Rev. Belva Brown Jordan.
Music hath charms to soothe the beast - or unleash it. Music is integral to identity in culture and society, from our most primitive expressions to the iPod. We will explore cross-cultural music trends and examine how music affects learning and creativity, contributes to economy, and connects performer and audience- Chautauqua Institution
Rev. Belva Brown Jordan
Rev. Belva Brown Jordan is the newly appointed Dean for Admissions and Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1986, Reverend Jordan has served as Dean for Student Life at Harvard University Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, since July, 2000, after eight years on the faculty of Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While at Lancaster Seminary she served as Associate Professor of Field Education and Director of Ministry Consultations for the Alliance for the Renewal of Ministry, focusing on the interpretation of theological education, practice of ministry, spirituality, and theo-musicology. She also served as Acting Dean of the Seminary for one year.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Rev. Jordan earned a B.S. and Master of Divinity degree at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas, where she recently received Briteâ€™s Distinguished Minister Award for her ministry in theological education.
We are here today to hear Belva Brown Jordan as a third of her afternoon series of lectures as she islooking with us and to the some of the traditions and the history that goes into music of her particulartradition. She is a CO musicologist, which means that she helps to understand and intersect theboundaries of theology and music. If you know, Belva if you heard her before you know that the musicis inside of her just waiting to get out, so I will let it to get out right now. Belva Brown JordanThank you John and thank you all for being here this afternoon. And I want to say a word thanks to theChautauqua family for sponsoring the lectures that at this week. It is indeed a privilege to be a part ofthat great legacy, and I am much appreciative. I don't know how many of you heard Erin Durkin thismorning at 10.45. Wasn't he wonderful? Amazing, if you did and you recall that he begin his talk andhe ended it with the quote by Ashley Montagu. The deepest feet suffered by human beings isconstituted by the difference between what one was capable of becoming and what one it has in factbecome. Now, it is a marvelous quote, and it is a great place to start even this afternoon. JusticeMontagu and Durkin put this idea forth to apply to people, I say it could be said the same can be saidabout our music, the music that we have been talking about this week. So lets begin today's section bywe are going to listen to the Montagu choir in a minute and then I am going to tell you what are theygoing to sing for us, and then I am going to pick up and add a few notes that I didn't include yesterdaythat are very important about the later development of Negro spirituals and some other people whomade it possible, and then we will move on to talk a little bit about hymns, and how they wereeventually experienced in black worship settings in the 17th and 18th century, and then we will singtogether. Today, the Montagu choir will sing two pieces for us. The first is the hymn "Behold the awfultrumpet sounds". And this was first published in 1800 and at the 1801 hymnal by Richard Allan, whowas the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. But it is a hymn that theearly black, the early slave communities heard a number of times, and followed by that hymn they willsing a spiritual that was actually inspired by the hymn "My lord, what a morning". I think a couple ofdays of their life eluded to this kind of back and forth inspiration and development of songs in the sledthe conversation that is the on going conversation and the different ways and places and people, andexperiences in the lives of the enslave that inspired the spirituals that were eventually developed againbetween 1600 and 1870, so with that further do I invite John and the Montagu choir to grace us.There are two ways of treating the same concept. So I am going to read you a couple of verses of thehymn, now which is a very familiar tune, and then I will just read the first line of the second song weare going to sing which is also a very familiar tune. First we will be singing "Behold the awful trumpetsounds". The sleeping dead to raise, and calls the nations underground oh, how the saints will praise.Behold the savior how he comes descending from his thrown to burst ascender all our tombs and leadhis children home. But who could bear that dreadful day to see the world in flames. The burningmountains melt away while rocks run down in streams. Three more verses, which we are not going tosing today and then the other side of that concept is "My lord for a morning". First Behold the awful trumpet sounds.Thank you so much. In the last decades of the 19th century, and I am into talk a little bit more againabout the development of of the spirituals and then we are going to talk about hymns, and theinteresting thing about the hymns and spirituals is that in this period we are talking about these thesetwo different musical John was said are things that are developing and happening at the same time. Sofrom the 1600's to 1870 and then with the with the with hymns much further into the into the19th century. But the last decades of the 19th century, schools developed; devoted to the training ofprofessional musicians. There were number of them there were that was established here in theUnited States between 1857 and 1870. And that list includes such places as the Peabody Conservatoryin Baltimore. Overland School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, BostonConservatory of Music, the Cincinatti Conservatory and the Chicago Musical College and thePhiladelphia Musical Academy. And then a little bit later between 1878 and 1904, we see the foundingof the New York College of Music, the National Conservatory of Music at New York, the AmericanConservatory at Chicago and all all that topped off by the Institute of Musical Art, which wasfounded in New York in 1904. And this was the last major musical school to be established before World War I.Now this was an interesting time because in the midst of all of this development in our musical history,and clearly before but even after the abolition of slavery that took place in 1865. Black musicians wereband from participating in symphony orchestras in Opera companies. And from what Erin Durkinshared us this morning, the snap shot of today's symphony orchestras would not be very much change.Now while black men women and men of the late 19th century were not allowed the membership ofopportunity to perform in these orchestras or Opera companies. They were allowed to study and trainedin some of these early music schools and conservatories. This proved to make a world a difference inthe development and preserve it preservation of the early musical expressions that we have beentalking about this week in the Negro spiritual.Now one well know imminent composer that made a big difference in in this process is AntoninDvorak. He was a well know imminent Bohemian composer and he played a significant role in theformal education of a number of Black men and women who were musicians in the late decades of the19th century. He served as the Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York from 1892to 1895. And one of his favorite student someone mentioned him yesterday in the question answeringperiod was Harry Harry Burleigh Now, he Burleigh arrived at the age of 26 at the conservatoryaround 1892 and and Dvorak embraced not just Burleigh but all of his African American Studentsand all of the gifts that they brought, the the cultural music expressions that they embodied.Now the history books and historical records tell us that Burleigh was the first to achieve Nationaldistinction as a composer, arranger and concert artist. Burleigh once listened to his grandfather, a runaway blind slave who settled in Pennsylvania seeing Negro Spirituals and other plantation songs. Andthose songs became embedded in his spirit. He grew up in poverty, but he was he is clearly giftedwith a singing voice and he sang in Churches and synagogues in his home town of Erie, Pennsylvania.And with the help of friends who recognized his gift and his talent, he was able to attend the NationalConservatory and and study with Dvorak. As he attended to the teaching of his mentor, he absorbedDvorak's theories about Native American and African American Music. Burleigh went on to teachvoice to serve as a baritone soloist of St. George's Episcopal Church and Temple Emanu-El. And hewas a composer and arranger of 100s of spirituals, among which was the song, "Deep River" that wassung by the great Paul Robeson. And he published a book entitled "Jubilee Songs of the United States of America" in 1916.Now, you know giving honor to Burleigh, I also want to mention a few others who made significantcontributions to the field of composing and arranging and performing and helping to preserve theNegro Spirituals and Black Gospel. Those names include include John Rosemond Johnson, hisbrother James Weldon Johnson who we probably know of a little bit better. And the two of themwrote and composed what has become had what had became to be know as the Negro NationalAnthem which was lift every voice and sing. And that's sure many of you are familiar with that withthat song. We have Nathan Decks on the line, on this on this list; Hall Johnson, Edward Boatner,William Levi Dawson, John W. Work, Thomas Andrew Dorsey, Charles Albert Tindley. You shouldremember some of these names because you will hear them again today and tomorrow, and some of thesignificant contributions that they made.Can you shift this a little bit? Because I want to talk about hymns. Now the hymn that that theMontagu Choir sang for us. The other words that you may know to that tune, "Oh God Our Help inAges Past" in one of the ways that hymns were presented to the congregation you know, a while ago.And probably in some communities, still still today is by lining the hymn. And so the thus theleader or the presenter would line the hymn and the congregation would sing it back and so. I am goingto invite this to do that now as we can make the shift to talking about hymns this this afternoon. So, Iam going to sing a line, and you are going to repeat the line. Then I will sing a line and you will repeatthe line and I will sing a line and you will repeat the line. And you know, a part of this was donebecause there was a time when there there were there may be tune books or there may be may behymn notes with with the words in them and it was, they took a while before both of those cametogether bound in the same book. But you know, even without having a a piece of paper in front ofyou with words on it, the congregation could really sing together with using this style of of singing.And so, we invite all you to to sing with me a verse of "Oh God Our Help in Ages Past". Okay. Ididn't bring the verse or paper with me, but I there are back there in my in my head. We will see whatwe get here. But you are I am going to sing a line and you are going to sing it back to me.Very good, now when early on we learned that the, that the the slaves would worship with in thewhite churches and they would also do slave worship in the invisible church and in the brush and andas they would take some of those hymns into their private space to worship, they would do some liningout too, but it would sound much different and so I am not going to do with "Oh god our help in agepast" but there is also the song "Father, I stretch my hand to Thee, no other help I know" and if youknow anything about the development of hymns, there was long meter and short meter and commonmeter, and if it was a long meter hymn they you know that it would be a hymn that would go on for along time and if it was a short meter you can get through it lot quicker and common meter is just kind of be in between both.There is the hymn "Father, I stretch my hand to Thee, no other help I know" and there is a kind of acommon meter style there, but the long meter style let me just tell you and again you had a a leaderthat would start out and before they could finally get that first the first phrase totally out of theirmouths, then the corrugation would which I made and then they would go into this long meter versionof "Father, I stretch my hand and to Thee" so can I give you an example, just a little sample of that.Now that's the abbreviated version of the long meter of the few lines of the "Father, I stretch my hand",and you can be maybe able to detect some elements of some of the early spiritual said that continue tobe a constant the mourn from the the deep soulful feel of of the music. Well I wanted you imaginethat what we have before this now is this really big thought, well I am going to start throwing up bunchof things in this part, a bunch of ingredients and eventually we are going to storied up vigorously andwe are going see what will come out but hopefully will come out of this recipe singing together that Iam going to come to fast forward through some of the historical developments of hymns, and get us tothe place where we can sing some hymns that are familiar to all of us together this afternoon.So let me start with the first ingredient, the word hymn comes from the Greek himnos meaning a song ofpraise to god or hero, then we have the earliest Christo Sim trick definition from our old friendAugustine of Hippo and his commentary on song 148 were hymns he describes as hymns are songscontaining the praise of god. So if we fast forward to the 17th century, because you rememberAugustine of Hippo lived 354 to 430, so now we have fast forward it to the 17th and 18th centuries.Here we have the Negro slaves supposed to the prodestan solider and hymns of Isaac Watts. Itsimportant to know that Watts who was an English minister according to the musicologists in the storyof Melba Costins, then Watts had a concept of humanity and congregational praise thatincorporated his concern that the Christian songs should go beyond the words of scripture to includethe original expressions of praise thanks giving devotion and yearnings for spiritual we knew.He encouraged outward expressions of inner feelings and deep emotions, was easy to imagine how thisconcept would totally be appealing to the early black church communities. Watts inspired many hymnwriters including Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby and others. As we breach through a little bit to thegreat awakening and the camp ground meetings and the 1730s there was this new religious movementthat swept the colonies assuring and lively congregational hymn singing and style and emotionalpreaching. Again all very appealing to the black worshipper which frees them to be emotionallyinvolved in worship no long no longer needing an invisible place to be fully visible.So towards the end of the 18th century, blacks begin to break away from white congregations and theybegan to establish their own places of worship. This breakaway brought even more freedom and thehymn took on a new face a new shape. Now James Cleveland writes in the introduction to the hymn dehymn section and the songs of the sign that these made over white hymns where the results of diverseinfluences including the following, one the African religious music, two the African call and responsestyle, three the European or the American religious in secular songs that were heard almost everywhereyou went in for various African in afro American die lands. What we end up with are some melodiesthat were improvised and we have rhythms and harmonies that were changed to reflect the black worship experience.A really good example of this is yesterday we sing the hymn version of amazing grace join me"Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now I am found Iwas blind but now I see" and with that style that hymn version of amazing grace is very easy for us allto sing it together because we know what to except. Well in the black church worship experience thestyle was a little different and even though it was little different every body knew what excepts becausepart of what they can accept is that they get improvised and fill in the spaces between notes and so youget something more like this.Thank you, If you notice with every verse, no two sound the same, and by the time I got to the whenwe have been 10,000 years, there are many of who had already started sing if you haven't started tosing the verse and it didn't matter if there was an that kind of straight hymn meter, you knew what tosing, you knew the words, you knew what to say you are more than that you know the feeling, youknow the message deep down inside, so you could sing it and it didn't need to be the straight meter,this that's a really good example of what happen in terms of the change in the tempo, the change inthe melody was the same for the most part. But a lot of feeling in the space with with singing, andwith feeling, and with meaning. Another hymn that we probably a lot of us sing is the "Come, Ye disconsolate".And this is the place when we did a little bit of a diversion, I wouldn't blame to say this but is insinging that it reminded me that the where we can find the hymn version in some, usually some earlierhymn knows in some of our the hymns that we may have access to may have a version of the hymnversion. But what I just saying in some one friends of mine the other day were asking me about theywere trying to figure out my style in and where I get the notes from you know that and that particularversion that actually is my rendition of a duet that reverted back and down in half a way saying on aalbum, well you know I cant do both parts. So I switch back and forth and between them andsometimes you get a little bit of a bear tone line and sometimes a little bit of that controlled the line.And this is one of the places were all the success will be talking a little more to more about when doessacred peace become secular and vice-versa, and although there was a time that went a number ofrecording artists people and even now that almost all ways they would add a sacred tune in on a record.So no matter how secular they may have originally approached the music, they always kind of reachback to a place that they have come from it might include a more sacred peace in an album and that onthat particular duet album of refortify cannot and John half the way that is the one kind of familiarsacred song that we would hear. So the but I want to mention Charles Tindley, who was the most,probably the most prolific black hymn writer. Tindley writes "Leave it there" you know "Take yourburdens to the lord and leave it there" and if you know quotes to that the words are leave it there, leaveit there take your burden to the lord and leave it there. If you trust and never doubt, he will surely bringyou out, take your burden to the lord and leave it there. If you know it I want to invite you to join andwe will sing through it at least twice, and so we can get the maximum voices and involve with singing this.Another thing, interesting thing that happened with lord of this hymns - early hymns from the blackworship tradition, another piece that hymn that Tindley wrote is "I will overcome someday", there weshall overcome someday, all overcome some day, and deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcomesome day and eventually if you know any thing about the 60's and the civil rights movement, thathymn was transformed into a hymn of that was a part of the protest movement and it's we shall overcome. SoWe all know we all know that,- we all know that it's a it is a part of the fabric of our signingrepertory, we all know that one. And there are other songs, like that, that were written and there is hisbook entitled from praise to protest songs and and the you know I questioned whether or not youknow both of those are that they they get classified as both, praise and protest, protest and praise,whether it's "I will overcome someday" or whether it's "We will overcome", they are both songs that Isee as both protest and praise songs. Tomorrow we are going to talk a little bit more about Tindley andwe are going to talk about Dorsey and we are going to look at some black gospel, but and if you arejust itching to sing sing sing to know that tonight there is a gospel and spiritual sing and Alpha theater is what time?And Mary Berkley said that they open this up to the community to come in for rehearsal, yesterday a150 people showed up, and they are sitting up for may be more than that to be there to night, so ithould be rock in the house.Yeah, so if you want to get a good dose of some black gospel, and some spirituals I suggest you gotonight to to hear that, it sounds like it's going to be wonderful. In closing before we turn to somequestions and answers, and you know I I one thing I have to say about about doing this isbecause yesterday, someone asked me a question that will simply on a quest for, I don't know howlong until I can learned a little bit more and find as much as many answers as I can to to thequestion, but the question was what happened to the slaves who were owned by Jewish slave ownersand did they become Christian? I think it's what the question was and I thought oh, that's an interestinginteresting question, so I am going to going to find out more about the variety of slave ownersand what happened to people when after abolition.So it's just another good question that has stimulated a desire for me to do a little more reading andresearch, so I think who ever it was, ask a question, and I don't know she is here today, and I the lastfour years, while I was in Boston, I was a part of the emergent congregation, and it's a congregationthat's made up of people from all blocks of life and there was a gentleman in the congregation who isrecovering and he had never been baptize and he probably was about 45 or 46 and he wanted to bebaptize and so he was baptized and Hope Church which was the name of the congregation that havebeen a part of. And as a part of his baptism, he asked about with with saying, a song for me, I meanhe tell me to pick some thing I thought that was appropriate, now other than for some reason I feel Ireally move to share this with you this afternoon, and it is a song that's a part of the this- thesegenerous that we were talking about this and the spiritual and you know other than I am just be moveto sing it I want to sing this for you as we close our time together today.