Here is a nice take on a song we all know, Kumbaya. Kum ba yah (“Come by Here“) was first recorded in the 1920s. The title may well come from an early version sung in Gullah in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia called “Come by Yuh”.
Evelyn Turrentine-Agee was born in 1946 as the third sibling in an eighteen sibling household. Her father, Cleveland Tyler, was a deacon in the church, and her mother was Ruthie Mae Tyler. She started singing on stage at the age of three because her father was in a quartet, and later they formed a family gospel girl group, The Tylerettes. She graduated high school by seventeen, and this enabled her to make her first record. Her education would not get forsaken because of her musical acumen and prowess because she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial psychology that she earned at the University of Detroit. Many gospel music groups tried to get her to join them, but her stay with them was rather brief because she had a strong desire for a solo music career.
“The Birth of a Nation,” tells the story of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. The movie won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, the largest purchase in Sundance history.
Under the baton of its artistic director, Stephen L. Hayes, who is an assistant professor of music at Wiley, the A Cappella Choir of Wiley College spent two days in November 2015 in the College’s chapel recording the hauntingly moving melody “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray. Arranged by Hayes, the melody is a piece the choir is highly requested to perform. Lewis Keys who sings this lead sang the melody in Wiley’s choir during his four years at the College.
Here is a beautiful rendition of this classic spiritual performed by an octet; all the voices this song really needs when you can sing like they do. It’s a wonderful thing when the bass voice comes in on the end of “sures you born” (:42). And to stay spot on pitch through the whole song is no easy feat either!!
A wonderful performance of an old spiritual that veteran members of Joyful Voices should remember. (I can still sing it from memory!) This is a YOUTH choir from Harlem, and they do a perfect job with the song. Great stuff!!
‘Tis the season after all and time seems to be fleeting away, so it seems only right to throw a few holiday songs into the mix. This is a very nice, blues-ed up, old school arrangement of this spiritual from Kirk Franklin.
Go Tell It On The MountainKirk Franklin & The Family5:53
I’m a bit of a cultural troglodyte and am not a huge fan of the operatic style of gospel singing…however…Jessye Norman’s and Katheryn Battle’s rendition of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hand” as the finale to their “Spirituals in Concert” recording is amazing…as evidenced by the huge ovation they receive at the end of the song. The beginning is lovely with the big orchestra backing them up, but the real fun starts when 1.) the backup choir comes in and then 2.) at 2:09 when everyone jumps in for last minute and a half…the two singers, the choir, and the orchestra. Great music!
He's Got The Whole World In His HandJessye Norman and Kathleen Battle3:37
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If you enjoyed this song, a video of the ENTIRE March 18, 1990 “Spirituals in Concert” at Carnegie Hall (22 songs, 90 minutes) is available on YouTube.
Another gem from the wonderful four CD set of gospel from Smithsonian Folkways. This song is from The Poole Brothers, a 1990’s acappela group from Greensboro Alabama who sang in the old quartet style of gospel. Quartet style singing was very popular from 1900 to about 1980 when the new, contemporary gospel sound emerged leaving quartet groups in the dust. In the 1990’s there was a slight resurgence of quartet groups of which The Poole Brothers was one.
Nobody Knows the Trouble I SeeThe Poole Brothers3:40
Here is a 1996 recording of my twelve man a capella group, The Maiyeros, from my junior year at high school doing a classic arrangement of the spiritual “Aint’a That Good News”. One thing I can say is that it moves along at a lively clip! (At 1:10 long, it’s mercilessly over almost before it’s begin…which might be a good thing.) Okay, enough for the self-promotion. Back to REAL gospel tomorrow!
The story of spirituals and their role in the history of gospel music is rich and deep and continues to be a topic that is the subject of books, articles, websites and blogs.
Spirituals were broadly introduced to the American public starting in the late 1800’s when The Fisk University Jubilee Singers began performing, first nationally, and then internationally in 1873. In the 20th century several very talented composers such as Harry Burleigh, Jester Hairston, William Dawson, Hall Johnson and Mose Hogan wrote wonderful arrangements of both old and new spirituals.
This particular spiritual is a lovely, lilting arrangement of a Bahamian spiritual written by Norman Luboff, probably in the 60’s.