Tag Archives: gospel

BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT

Long, long ago in the Campbell Street house, I heard a song while sitting on my daddy’s lap. His feet were bouncing me up and down until my mom pulled us both up to dance with her. From then until now (and from the way it looks now, probably for all eternity), it is always her voice in my head when I hear this song.

I fell in love with jazz that day. Blue-grass rhythms and harmonies had probably been a part of my genes while I was being knit in my mother’s womb, then add a few spirituals from whatever choir she was singing in, and my preference in music was pretty much set for life.

“I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I’m beginning to see the light”~Don George/Duke Ellington

A few years later – I discovered the deep power of vibration as William Warfield sang “Ol Man River” (one of the first songs I remember memorizing just out of love for singing it in the Campbell Street house)- the richness of George Gershwin’s Bess as she sang “Summertime” – the intricate harmonies of the 5th Dimension’s “The Declaration” – the dissonances of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Fantasy” – the heart of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” – the soul of all spirituals that chorally covered me in oh-so-many-choirs over a lifetime of singing.

“Every man has a place, in his heart there’s a space,
And the world can’t erase his fantasies
Take a ride in the sky, on our ship fantasii
All your dreams will come true, right away
And we will live together, until the twelfth of never
Our voices will ring forever, as one”~Earth, Wind and Fire

Today, I got to listen as my eldest daughter sang in a new choir. It is one of those unspoken blessings about living close to children we were blessed to raise. Sitting in an audience, swelling with pride as we watch them perform, and somehow – it never gets old. It never goes away. It never changes. Love, heart and soul circles through the music, into a new generation, into the Grands as they fidget in their seats, and into the mind of this elder as she pondered all these treasures clasped as tightly as possible in her hands.

“I must walk my lonesome valley,I got to walk it for myself, 
Nobody else can walk it for me,I got to walk it for myself…
Jesus walked his lonesome valley, He had to walk it for himself,
Nobody else could walk it for him,He had to walk it for himself.”~J.H. Cone

Journeys are individual. Yet – when those paths intersect, there is that possibility of being able to walk together for a short space of time, and today was just one of those blessed days. A day to listen as my youngest Grandson read an entire story to me for the first time while my youngest Granddaughter reached for my hand behind his back for a short minute or two. A day to watch the daughter sing for joy a song I have loved for ages. A day to hear the Grands shout across a big city parking lot, “Bye, Grandma” – not once but twice. A day to rejoice for being in the perfect place – at the perfect time – and looking up to see the Conductor of Life start the up-beat for “I’m Beginning to See the Light”.

“You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you, to go bear fruit – fruit that will last.”~Jn 15:16   

GOSPEL CHOIR

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours…”

Tonight was the first time in three and a half years that I have sung with other people. It was joyous. It was beyond my expectations. It was a God-wink gospel moment.

Remember that old Nat King Cole song? “Smile when your heart is aching, Smile even though its breaking…” My life has sort of been like that for many reasons. When that little tick decided to share its bacteria with me, it changed parts of my body in many different ways. Energy levels, achy joints, weak immune system and…….no singing voice.

I whined about most of it, but I never mentioned the loss of my voice. It hurt too much to contemplate. It was my identity in so many ways, that I struggled with how I viewed myself in this new voiceless capacity. Funny, how one little aspect of our ego plays such a huge role in the perception of self.

“Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all…”

When I was a child, I always planned on being a dancer. I danced every where and loved how music could move your body in ways that it normally didn’t go. Then my knee blew out and never recovered its strength. Every time I tried to dance seriously, it would swell up and give out. After lots of prayer and tears, I decided G-d had a better plan, and I would find it. Losing my voice brought back many of those internal dialogues.

Long story short. I decided – once again – that G-d had a plan and started to move forward. As always, He did. The voice is not fully back as it was. It is different. My low register is LOW. Tonight, I was definitely singing tenor comfortably. There is a mid-range weakness and the high voice is not anywhere near the range I used to hit. But the voice is back. Best yet – I’ve recieved a new gift. I hear harmonizing notes in my head now and tonight – it was perfect. For you see – tonight I got to sing with my first gospel choir.

“Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things…”

I am not great at singing gospel. I may never be great at singing gospel, but I sure do love it. Bessie Smith, Paul Robeson. Mahalia Jackson. Della Reese. When you grow up with parents who listened to early blues and jazz, I think you get it by osmosis. College enlarged the desire as I got to attend churches and actually watch the Holy Spirit move through the gospel choir and into the audience.

The great thing is that – here in the South – I get to join a gospel choir. It is totally new. Not using sheet music. Not being told exactly what to sing. Listening to those around you and feeling the Holy Spirit just move everyone to sing a new note. I once attended a 7th Day Adventist Church in Columbus, OH. The preacher and choir were amazing. The preacher sang almost half of his sermon while the rafters shook with the choirs’ responses. But the main thing I remember from that sermon is that he said, Luciel (the evil one) could sing in 4-part harmony by himself before the fall and that was a main part of his pride that tripped him into falling. In the 40+ years since then, I’ve pondered that point often and tried not to let it trip me.

Gospel is all about praise. Gospel is all about being led by the Spirit of G-d. Gospel is totally out of my comfort zone, but then again, I guess that is the journey I am on this year. Camping out in a house. Learning to sing gospel with people who can lead me in prayer and worship in ways I’ve never experienced for myself. I’m hoping that I learn enough to join a gospel choir in heaven every now and then when I get there. And I’m for sure glad that I can lift up my voice unto the hills from whence cometh my help.

“In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.” 1 Chon 29:11-12

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