Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fisk Jubilee Singers: Swing Low Sweet Chariot

video
from pbs site about the jubilee singers

Combining the heritage of African culture and the experiences encountered while in bondage, early African American music would become a unifying and driving force among America's slaves. Spirituals, as many of these songs came to be called, expressed faith in God, helped make work more bearable, and also revealed plans to revolt. The songs' lyrics offer a glimpse of the true horror slaves endured as well as a hope and faith that one day they would be free. The voice for generations of African Americans, these songs laid the groundwork for the development of other forms of music in America.
The Fisk University Jubilee Singers was the first group to publicly perform the songs of slaves and they shared them with the world. When the Fisk Jubilee Singers first performed in the late 1800s, they sang ballads and patriotic anthems; it was their director, George White, who suggested that they sing the songs of their ancestors. The group was hesitant at first to expose this sacred music but agreed to add a few spirituals to their program. The music was well-received, often moving audiences to tears. With their performances, the Jubilee Singers were able to keep alive these songs of the past and reveal the emotions and strong faith of the African American slave.

Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home.
I looked over Jordan and what did I see,
Coming for to carry me home?
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.
If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home,
Tell all my friends I’m coming too,
Coming for to carry me home.
The brightest day that ever I saw,
Coming for to carry me home.
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Coming for to carry me home.
I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,
Coming for to carry me home,
But still my soul feels heavenly bound,
Coming for to carry me home.

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