Showing posts with label Choir Traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Choir Traditions. Show all posts

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sacred Sunday: When the Church Rocks

This video of Queen Esther White Young singing the song “If Jesus Goes With Me, I Can Go Anywhere” at the Tabernacle Echoes Grand Reunion Concert stirs up so many images and stories of the rich tradition of African American gospel music and choirs.

Uncle Willie's Stories. Although the speed of this song is not extremely fast, but rather a slow-medium speed, watching and enjoying this video reminds me of stories I heard from my Uncle Willie Johnson (1915-2000), a brother of my maternal grandmother. In describing the church services of his youth during the 1920s and 1930s in Warren County, NC, Uncle Willie enthusiastically recalled the days of his family’s church when there was no piano or musical instruments. “As we walked through the woods towards the church, you could hear the church rocking and the saints singing and clapping and praising God,” he recalled. “Then we would walk or run a little faster to get to church.” These were also the days when rural churches typically had wood floors, so I’m sure Uncle Willie also heard foot tapping along with the singing and hand clapping.

The Choir Rock. One thing I notice in this video which stirs up memories is the choir rocking from side to side in unison to the beat of the music. Sometimes a Choir Director gestures to the choir which direction to begin moving. At other times, some choir members may just begin moving to the music on their own. This takes me back to my days singing in the church and college gospel choirs during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Choir’s Attire. I knew this had to be a special occasion concert just by looking at the attire of the choir members with the ladies all dressed beautifully in varying black dresses accessorized with white beaded necklaces and a red flower, and the men dressed in black suits with white shirts and red ties. The red flowers and red ties are the accessories which make these various styles of dresses, suits, and necklaces look uniform.

The Soloist. Sister Queen works this song and I love it when she comes down into the church aisle. You can hear and feel the electricity in the audience as she walks down the aisle bellowing this great tune. The sound of the hand clapping gets louder and it is at this climatic peak that the church is officially ROCKING! This is the point where my mind drifts back to Uncle Willie’s recollections of the church rocking during his youth and I sit in front of my computer singing, clapping and swaying from side to side in my chair as I enjoy this song and travel down memory lane.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sacred Sunday: The Cross Choir

The Gospel Spreading Church, a church organization founded in 1919 by Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, (1884-1968) has a tradition of the Cross Choir, where white-robed choir sit in a cross formation. This is a beautiful site to view.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Choir March Tradition

During my youth and young adult years (1970s and 1980s), I was a church choir member. During this time, the tradition of my church was for the choir to march into the church down the aisle, and into the choir stand. As the choir marched in singing, while rocking or swaying from side-to-side, the congregation would stand up and look towards the back of the church to watch the choir processional.

When the senior choir in my childhood church sang and marched down the aisle, I would always look at their shoes and would pass judgment in my mind as to if the shoes were pretty or ugly. I think that most of the children in my church did the same thing. I did not realize how much I missed and valued the choir march tradition until last month when I visited a family church.

Since the early 1990s, I have not been a member of a church where the choir marched into the choir stand. Instead, these church choirs simply gather in the choir stand prior to the beginning of service and stand up together before the opening song. I have, however, visited churches since the early 1990s, who still do the choir march.

Last month, when I visited my father’s family church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA, I realized how much I missed the choir march tradition. On that 4th Sunday in April, the youth choir marched into the church. As they marched in, a thought hit me as I watched and recalled that some churches, which formerly practiced the choir march tradition, no longer did this. I got excited as I watched these young people march and sing. For more on my 4th Sunday in April visit, click here.

In the second service that afternoon, the mass choir marched into the church. I was thrilled and excited by the upbeat music and their marching! I took several pictures instead of video, but later I wished that I had thought about my digital camera video instead. I promised myself that I would remember to videoe the next time I visited Antioch.

Yesterday, I visited Antioch again and the service was spiritually uplifting. This time I made sure to videotape the choir march. Some choirs sing as they march in; but the choir at Antioch marched in as the musicians played. They began singing when all the choir members got into the choir stand. Like some marching choirs, the Antioch choir was escorted in by an usher. (See portion of video below)

I do not know when or where the church march tradition began in churches, but I love it, not only because it is a reminder of the church traditions of my youth, but also because I believe that it sets the tone of worship as the choir enters the church singing praises to God.