Friday, January 25, 2008

The Latest Black History Month Choir News

I know you are all wondering about what's going on with the Black History Month choir. Well, on Wednesday we had our first real rehearsal. We're doing a gospel song called "Blessed," for which there is no sheet music, so the choir is having to learn their parts by ear, and I am making up a part for myself. The guy who's playing the keyboard is teaching everybody their parts, based on how he hears the song, which has turned out to be pretty interesting, because I hear some things differently than he does. But I'm following his lead and doing it the way he's doing it.

There's another violinist, a young postdoc from South Korea, and she and I are playing two spirituals together as a duet as a featured part of the Black History Month celebration. We're playing "Motherless Child" and (my favorite spiritual) "Go Down, Moses." I transcribed the melodies and made up the harmonies for the second violin part myself. I chose to harmonize them in such a way that they sound really plaintive. I think they will be beautiful.

We're also playing for about 15 minutes as people come in and sit down before the program begins. One woman borrowed a hymnal from her African-American church, and picked out a dozen or so spirituals for us to play. We're just going to play the top two parts, which should sound good. The only problem is that since these are traditional African-American hymns, I'm not familiar with them and therefore I'm not sure (in some cases) what the tempo is supposed to be. But I will ask her the next time we rehearse, which will be on Monday.

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