Thinking Out Loud

May 8, 2018

The Hymns We Sing Meant Something Different to American Slaves

Filed under: Christianity, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:23 am

Saturday night we attended the first in what is hoped to become an annual concert series, The Hymns to Freedom Project. The venue was the beautiful Toronto Centre for the Arts; although it was built in the late 1990s, we were seeing it for the first time. The tickets were purchased by our son who wanted to see the concert and invited us to join him.

He became aware of the event after attending a previous concert by the Toronto Mass Choir (TMC). The connecting link is Corey Butler who is Musical Director and who conceived this program, composing and arranging the selections, and conducting a 38-piece orchestra.

The music was often bright and lively, and this stood in contrast to the subject matter: Slavery in the United States. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. were played, including the famous “I have a dream” speech, with the film footage synchronized with the live orchestra.

Four of the selections involved Canadian soloist Jackie Richardson who combined readings with singing. The song “Elijah Rock” had the audience clapping and singing.

But the more sobering theme of the night was never far removed. There was a reference to the gospel song, “How I Got Over” and an explanation of its reference to fugitive slaves escaping to northern states by crossing the Ohio River; but also a reminder that it’s a metaphor for the wider emancipation of black Americans as whole, with the added caveat that this process is incomplete. The accompanying slide show included an images of Trayvon Martin and the more recent image of the black men removed from a Starbucks location just last month.

We were reminded that the “band of angels coming after me” in “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was actually a reference to friends on the northern banks of the Ohio (identified as the Jordan River) often signalling when would not be safe to cross and then helping them when it was.

The concert was also the launch project for Zamar Music Productions, a new “not-for-profit organization committed to excellence in music art and performance” in three specific areas: Education, Entertainment and Production utilizing a variety of music styles. (Learn more at zamarmusic.org)

My only regret is that the entire program was quite short. We were told ahead of time that the running time would be 72 minutes.  It should also be noted that from where we were sitting, it looked like almost a quarter of the audience arrived late; strange considering the ticket prices. Also, there were two competing elements here; the songs featuring Ms. Richardson belonging to an entirely different genre than the more classical-styled, instrumental-only songs featuring the full orchestra. That may have been an attempt to appease a more diverse audience.

The next Hymns to Freedom Project concert is scheduled for February in Brampton, Ontario.


Footnotes:

  • My wife and I got to sing with the Toronto Mass Choir in a yearly event they do called Power Up and we continue to attend their concerts yearly. I’ve had several conversations with Corey Butler, including a front row seat in Newcastle where I could almost reach out and touch the piano. (You can read my story here.)
  • In another lifetime (for both of us) Jackie Richardson sang with a dance band that did Jewish weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs, for which I was a roadie. Thanks to that experience, I’ve been inside almost every Synagogue in Toronto.
  • The Toronto Centre for the Arts is located in Toronto just steps away from where the April 23rd van attack took place. At the end of the event, Corey Butler dedicated the concert to the memory of those who lost their lives and to their families, and those who were injured. We went for a walk to the memorial after the concert and you can read that reflection here.
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January 16, 2013

Wednesday Link List

In the first link today, I want you to join me in a promotion project for a deserving songwriter and embed the video on your Facebook page, your blog, or whatever it takes to spread the word.

  • Our first link today is the above video. I’ve been corresponding with the creator of this for some time, but it couldn’t go public until now.  “An uplifting song that furnishes a concept of peace and oneness for humanity in deliberate contrast to John Lennon’s iconic anthem, ‘Imagine’.”  Here’s the story behind the song. I want to encourage you to share this with everyone you know! 
  • Here’s an article I wrote for C201, that I may yet reblog here. It’s about Jesus’ last words to his disciples, and they may not be the words you’re thinking of right now. 
  • And another C201 post that is both packed with scripture and introduces the new Chris Tomlin song, Whom Shall I Fear.
  • Essay of the week: Canadian Dave Carrol explains his faith, his faith journey, and his ‘conflicted’ Protestant and Catholic sides to a largely secular audience in his city’s newspaper.
  • The Harvard Theological Review is postponing publication of a major article on the papyrus fragment in which Jesus seems to refer to his wife, raising further doubts about a discovery that was set to turn Christian history on its head. More at Religion News
  • Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove critiques a PBS special on the abolitionists; noting what the producers missed and what he is pleased they included.
  • If you’ve been following the Jack Schaap story, you’ll want to know that First Baptist Church in Hammond (IN) has hired a new pastor, John Wilkerson. More also at the church website.
  • Meanwhile in another casting call, how about Brad Pitt as Pontius Pilate?
  • Would Brian McLaren be a good fit to replace Louis Giglio at the Presidential bash?
  • And what if a letter from Barack Obama to Louis Giglio looked something like this letter?  Plus, I couldn’t overlook a piece that Gabe Lyons wrote on how Louis was ‘bullied off the stage.’
  • Pushing past the controversy, Christianity Today reported on Louis Giglio’s signature event, The Passion Conference. Between Passion and Urbana, it’s easy to see what American Christian youth were up to over the holidays. So why does a search for Urbana at CT turn up nothing?
  • While it doesn’t have a Christian message, this 3-minute public service announcement from the Australian government should give you good reason to slow down in all areas of life.
  • As the countdown begins to the Big Game in the U.S. (February 3rd, if you’re wondering) poet Greg Asimakoupoulos: laments that these sports extravaganzas now routinely happen on Sundays. As game day approaches, you might want to copy and paste this to the American football fans you know.  [HT: David Fisher]
  • The issue of prayer at civic events switches this week to a debate about the subject at West Point Academy.
  • Mike Duran is closing in on 300 comments for a piece he wrote about websites that put evangelicalism under the microscope or simply put it to ridicule. Some of the language is edgy, but if you’re okay with that, check out, The Anti-Evangelical Hate Machine. Later, in an effort to better understand one of the bloggers, he interviews Darrel Dow of Stuff Fundies Like.  (SFL is also the source for today’s lower graphic.)
  • A few weeks ago we attended a New Year’s Eve-Eve night of ‘clean comedy’ with Timmy Boyle, and learned that a number of comedians in Canada are creating a family-friendly comedy circuit. Here’s a story of Matt Falk, a similar entertainer whose debut album topped the iTunes comedy category on its day of release. 
  • Also for my Canadian readers, next Monday night at 8:00 PM on CBC TV’s Mr. D., history teacher Gerry Duncan wades into religion with this line, “Jesus was Jewish and even he was Catholic.” Sigh.
  • Ending with a video since we opened with one: Cindy Jacobs tells an interviewer about the ‘miracle’ of her shoes not wearing out.

Christian Family Off For Vacation

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