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you leave you know meaning made up by the people for a particular knee and in their words in their musical language and use when they need it when they don't when they tell me that they don't use this is what the religious folk song is not let me explain one thing to do it's very important we we're very concerned about the lack of sick kilo songs from the slave your that we don't care which means that there's a reason that we had religious folk songs and that reason is all the ceo's felt that they could control the slaves more when they sang religious music there was a kind of a once the slaves accepted christianity when they sign these spirituals
when they sign these songs it and actually put them in the mood to get word done to pay attention to centralize labels and therefore the overseer like that so that they encourage the singing of the song for example where other cyclists on as a matter of fact in eighteen sixty seven when the first collection of these suvs up obviously songs of the united states the office complained about the pulse attack all secular music so that these people was singing religious songs because they believe that somehow through religion that we're going to be saying they were going to be free so that this negro spiritual itself is a religious folks all of the slave era which expresses basically true false one is liberation and the other is sorrow for example go down moses is a sorrow so
in that great give not morning fare you well is a jubilee that's a liberation we're going to get out of this out of this situation one way or the other you talk about whether people would like to think that the negro spiritual was created during the great church service and sitting in some wonderful cathedral when in fact people were out in the field the group is over here chopping cotton and the group is over here picking tomatoes and all of a sudden somebody overdose says have you got good religion in this group over uses certainly law they may not have all said the same thing at the same time i might have said yeah walking and he would come by have you got good religion by that time they're thinking that certain law sounds good how it got good religion and over europe say i'm amal certainly is certainly is
certainly a lot of what you'll notice a few words though remain because if you can saying just a few words and shop at the same time have you got good religion certainly low and you know how we talk about rhythm being the distinguishing factor between european music and an african american music that rhythm that pulse is so strong and that it's a good working so as a matter of fact not only did they sign yet when they were working but they sang it when they walked from this field up to the big house or to the next plantation all when they rub the baby to sleep or when they were claiming the greens for demo we don't have them singing i'm looking over a fully global he's sad westside none of that they're singing these songs that somehow they put words to from the church service and i'm i've read enough now to know that
yes the negro spirituals was sunder injured service but they will also work songs people signed these two companies something and in nine cases out of ten if there was if there was a pulse to it they would sing songs which have a pulse if you will for you work they would sing songs which had sort of a slow rhythm because as this is this was like they are cds these were there this is messy and in this is the key out of this is there well may well but they needed they created themselves out of this news one occasion where is this session two things one is the simplicity of the music and so the servers know things that all these lyrics is providing a message was an interpretation of understanding of the bible scripture
of the book i love sounds of spiritual salvation yes it's a it's interesting to note that it was not until sixteen sixty seven i guess in virginia that there was a law passed that said black full ketzel's this is important because once they set the black apple pencil they have to be responsible for their religious education is about that the rest of the loss says and it is therefore possible to be a slave and christian at the same time now this meant that they had to go to church and the religiously educators it was not until six team six to seven that it was agreed that black folks had souls novices in virginia and virginia was kind of the leaders of the united states around this time it was the united states and speak sixteen six to seven they passed a law which said that it would be possible to be a slave and it crashed into this net them that someone
had to be responsible for the religious education of the slaves slaves are marched to church sometimes sitting in pews much b am for black males be done before black women sometimes sitting in the gallery a what we would know this the attic sometimes having service after the service of a slave owner in his family at any rate under any circumstance of course they did teach them the bible more of the old testament and the new testament prize was not a great model for slate jehovah i met this guy who would come in and send up a phalanx of roaches are new is the god that they've talked about so you find all of these spirituals about old testament but once they learned the stories they even began to make up songs about them but these people were not readers they were not writers they had to sing songs with a few words that they could learn what's carry on forever that everybody could sing at the same time so you're going to find spirituals little say swing low sweet
chariot comin for to carry me home swing low sweet chariot coming for the tamil just a few words which are going to be sung over know look in that great good night moment there you will say you will in that great good melbourne and freddie will repetition and just a few words not do something interesting and james weldon johnson comments on this in the first book of negro spirituals and nineteen twenty five it's possible to create a chorus where there are only a few words or then a good growing flame a good rule of flame a good ruling memo father's kingdom for clinical growing clinical ruined just choose your sequences that there are only a few words the next time i'd sing that maybe somebody would come in and buy the third time i sing it now the whole group
but what happened when you wanted a virus or a conscious you can't make up along over as well with those people and james weldon johnson tells us that the slaves creativity awful lot of wandering couplets and one drink watch trains which if you needed to start singin to plan a good room and get away from him you could say oh i love that oh fabulous the wealthy and they do do good rule in this plan although you cry people awake and they have all of these when i get to heaven gonna sing and shout they'll be nobody there to turn me out i looked over jordan and what did i see a band of angels comin after me up when in the valley i didn't go to stage a sold out happiest a garbage they had these all sitting over there and and therefore you
could make these spirituals very simple and then when you needed some contrast you pull out one of those actually are seeing them singing spirituals and seeing the last twenty minutes because when one finished adding a few of these one drink up with another one would at it and makes a rather complex musical compositions well he talked about the idea of the music as salvation and one thing he talked about was that the music was also our clancy communities that was personally crimson talk about there's a wonderful story in the eighteen sixty seven publication which i mentioned earlier slave songs where they ask a slave how do you compose the songs and he says obviously he's displease the master and some kind way because the master calls them up and chargers hundred lecture it's a month returned and he must pick up a bushel
of something that as punishment for displeasing slave driver of the matter is as a muddled church that night i tell my friends about their good singers and they work it in and work it in until they get it just right now which i would happen you start singing the song and when you're singing at first according to the slaves you just singing the words but after a while it gets almost like sour it begins to take the fall out of place the shoulders begin to have to come back to the veil natural position what's happening is you're going through a a cleansing process you're coming back to where you want to be things and not know why as bed as you think they are and the more you think that the more you find relief the more you believe that there is a way out
of this now and what it how important this was to remember that the slaves and jill the days of hard work mistreatment little flu little cold a little rest and they have to get up the next day two were caught get little food very little clothing a little rest and get up the next day and go through hard work the flow little coda so that they had to have something which would inspire them which would keep him getting up from day to day and that's what these spirituals did for four the slaves out i had we head psychiatry is during that time and so the slaves to them i don't know whether they could've done the affective job that these spirituals did for this and let me ask you
you are brutal episode we talked earlier about how the the reluctance of the early singers of fisk to sing these songs in the presence of white people not just before an intimate concert eisenberg there was of a senate but they were really not about that why that would be when this is interesting when slavery ended our two opinions about the aspersions one was we don't want to sign anything that had anything to do with anything about slavery it was really very painful for the majority of slaves now to be sure there were some house slaves there were some oil trustees all of all people were high on the list of
overseas and who were free but for the majority of states particularly field slave night guard slaves or how slaves who were treated a little better but feels lays people would never even saw the details until the mess to battle until place to stay or some sort of celebration oh really lived them i hobbled life and they didn't want to have anything to do with that so that they didn't sing spirituals a day in addition to that minister suggested that they needed to do a different kinds of songs mike answers on the other hand after slavery ministers wanted to elevate the musical taste of their
congregation and started particular the baptist church started putting out books for them to saying actually songs which were the nineteenth century white gospel hymns on the other hand there were people who said we wanted to sing those because that's obvious no it was i was getting ready to go at the same time there were people who felt this is much too personal this is much to intercultural to share with other people if it loses something when this music is sung before people who don't know where it came from i would have to answer something and because this is a problem that young black students have today in public school i don't want to answer
any questions about any of these i wanted to be sung to fool people who share in its history and its legacy they understand somebody else who doesn't understand that they might laugh a and b might misunderstand it one way or the other and i would just rather sing it when all the my people it had to hear jubilee singers begin to before before we go to the juice is what one other question that the attentions of the book what to talk about what this visit would be the spiritual side and then an n serve american contemporary classical music as it's being performed in this is that the journalists are just absurdly ten feet late june hundreds found two kinds of church music and i'm not speaking of
black church music and they were the standard protestant hail it's holy holy holy lord god almighty a mighty fortress is our government will never fail at all god our help in ages past that was a standard protestant and the other was the so called nineteenth century gospel hymn people like me people like iowa david psychic and fellow called the list songs like shall we gather at the river sweet hour of prayer what a friend we have in jesus so we have them the the standard protestant hymns and the the gospel hymns now what happens with the slaves is that they borrow some of the harmony and some of the workers
from each of these and then they take poles and together with that a river and that melody and that singing style they create an old spiritual and no song which is neither the standard protestantism know the gospel hymn but something like every time i feel the spirit movement in my heart i will pray it's certainly not wholly you hold me hold me when there's a certain soto of formality that's given both to the text a moment in the rhythm and the performance style here we often think that so much of the spiritual comes from the inside out while it appeared to the slaves that the other system was from the outside un and very often it didn't quite get all the way
here one of the things that also happened when his innocence when the same services if it's real women religious loophole was covered when the religious his abdomen and spirituals is an effort to transcribe them ok and is a person one which which isn't too as one can you transcribe the music and to what is it that these these fighters are hearing i mean there are things that african americans are doing with the rhythm and the attack that has toppled governments i keep going back to the slave clause of the united states it's not that i keep going back to slave songs of the united states because that's such an important document it was the first collection and as was the church and there was a wonderful introduction at the beginning of this book and the office set out to explain what's happening and they talk about the difficulty of a head in
writing this music to our mobile was the scales that the singers used was unlike anything they had ever heard in the united states we've now called the blue notes or the blues scale padding and tongs instead of saying an old milo then saying or milo who do data today at and if you don't know that that is the correct way that it's supposed to be done you say what they didn't really mean that they met the eye either way and that was actually a little bit of correcting and it was not correcting the music it was almost correcting the culture because it was within the culture at the same time they said that they all sang harmony as we know it and yet no two people are
saying the same thing because the slaves were either not impressed with the harmony that they heard in the church services or they disregarded it and went back to a kind of harmony not like that which we hear in the box or the mendelssohn that we hear but in the end a kind of loved folk adaptation of a culture that's not been impressed by european musical julie centers themselves to talk a little bit about her nasar stardom but when they begin to go on the road what do they represent as a group says the early nineteenth century facility with that they were that represents we talk about the fisk jubilee singers and we're indebted to the jubilee singers for two main reasons number one is full
taking the negro spiritual on the row number one and number two fought i think perhaps we'll this to george ill white who was the treasurer and music teachers there for him saying that there was something beautiful something and something cultural and this music that he heard the students saying i'm out on the yards and that now and tell you that there was a tradition at fisk mba ding seventies that you came to school but you also had a job after demo where you had to work after all they were sort of self sustaining and when that job was over then you could go out on the lawn and you could visit with each other before you went in and you did your homework luggage or preparation for school and george wright and some of the other professors noticed that local groups would get together and saying and they were not singing ah the songs that they knew they were
singing negro spirituals and that's kind of interesting because all of these people hadn't been slain from a densely but they know these songs from all they know these songs for a mom they know the songs from church and they would sing them and georgia say notice something wonderful about this fiscal seventh grade financial difficulties and they said you know i bet if people heard this music they would like it and give us some money to keep the school open october six eighth and seventy one of these men young men and women leave fisk to go out and saying to sing this song because they don't really start out singing the negro spiritual as much as they saying what would be considered like classics and full songs of the day a militia would play some pieces to make up a nice little he eventually of course they come to this music and when they sang the spirituals because they bring
something special to let me when you talk about the reaction to the audience's have to convince patients in a while with it would have a good sense of where they want it where they have such a strong reaction in northern cities are not only one remember that if you did not live in the south and even if you lived in the cell and you didn't have fifteen twenty five or a hundred slaves on a plantation you didn't know delightful you didn't know their whale cooking you didn't know they're dancing and you didn't know they are saying it all of a sudden and when we talk about eighteen seventy while i would love to hear this because we're not talking about the benefits of of oil fisk university and its findings department today they didn't really they didn't have the benefit of the juilliard school of music they didn't get the kind of training the play and jean price that
they didn't look at is will people with natural beautiful voices who would stand up and saying but in so doing that they would bring the of the arm collard greens that they hate enter their voices they would sign up they would bring the pork chops i mean you know they would bring that the league fried green tomatoes in jail and that fall tell them it provided that ends of openness that had never been hired in the united states now remember that we talk about jimmy leyland and all of the great european classical artists who set the musical taste and here we find these black folk with incumbent voices hope to be sure some of them sounded like rachel some sounded like aretha franklin these are not new voice pipes and then the african american culture because i inherited voiced eyes and to hear them saying swing low sweet chariot with with it with the grape and grime and
yet the passion was absolutely unheard of and this is what the people heard they heard first those voices with the witness i'll tell you something the first time i heard that says smith saying i was an undergrad law school i was a junior and when i heard that lady with that gorgeous voice but we'll look back tears of what i thought of as sadness i stopped didn't much like since it what is that style if pot as an african american got that reaction from hearing cases missing for the first punch can you imagine what they must have heard an eight what white people now saddam's white people who never know who'd never seen bride people before some of that sometimes when they saw that when they saw the fisk jubilee singers some of the whizzing by people for the first time and heard this gorgeous voice but one that was so different from what the choir director's say emotional
American Experience
Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory
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Interview with Horace Clarence Boyer, Musicologist
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Horace Boyer Interview about a group of young ex- slaves in Nashville, Tennessee, who set out on a mission to save their bankrupt school by giving concerts. Traveling first through cities in the North, then on to venues across Europe, the Jubilee Singers introduced audiences to the power of spirituals, the religious anthems of slavery. Driven to physical collapse and even death, the singers proved more successful - and more inspirational - than anyone could have imagined.
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American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, lynching, Mississippi
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Chicago: “American Experience; Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory; Interview with Horace Clarence Boyer, Musicologist,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2020,
MLA: “American Experience; Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory; Interview with Horace Clarence Boyer, Musicologist.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2020. <>.
APA: American Experience; Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory; Interview with Horace Clarence Boyer, Musicologist. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from