Program A: The Burning House
Denial (Spiritual): Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
This spiritual is an intense lament that speaks of deep personal abandonment. The question is, why!? What circumstances caused this person to feel motherless? Is it a child or adult reflecting on the death of a parent? Is it a person who made a mistake in life and feels rejected by their parent? Is it a person who is physically and emotionally lost or separated from what is familiar and comfortable? One of the lines of text says, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long ways from home.” Africa means Motherland. The place that gave birth to all humanity. In a deeper historical context, perhaps for an enslaved person of African decent, this spiritual is a cry from a soul that has been expelled from earth. Such an intense feeling for Black Americans in today's world, most likely would be accompanied by feelings of denial. In other words, this is an experience for my ancestors. Not me.
Anger (Classical): Frederick Douglass Funeral March
Nathaniel Clark Smith was a bandleader in the Midwest. He wrote this piece in tribute to the former slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This piece of music has no lyrics. It is a funeral march set in g minor. The main theme is contrasted by the trio section written in B Flat Major. Listening to this, a person can almost hear the consistent heavy rhythmic footsteps of a marching band. It is normal in human behavior for a person to stamp their foot especially when they are angry. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were good friends who held each other's intelligence in high esteem. Both men were ardent believers in the humanity promised in The Constitution and adamant about uniting the country of the United States. To lose a patriotic person like Frederick Douglass and know that the things he fought for have not fully come into fruition, all those who consider themselves Americans should be stamping their foot in angry outrage.
Faith (Gospel): Total Praise
Richard Smallwood is known for his most famous work Total Praise. Based on psalm 121:1 the music starts softly like the first glimmer of sunlight transitioning from dawn to daybreak on a clear morning. When the lines, “You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life.” are sung, the music gently soars to a roaring finish symbolizing the arrival of much needed and anticipated help. In Puccini’s opera Turandot, based off a Chinese fairy tale, the Islamic Prince Calif must answer three riddles in order to marry the beautiful Chinese Princess Turandot. If he answers incorrectly, Prince Calif will be beheaded. The first riddle is, “What dies each night but is reborn each day?” Prince Calif answers, “Hope.” Gospel music reminds us that no matter how dark our midnight is, no matter how long it lasts, hope for a new day with new possibilities is always just beyond where we can visibly see it. The only requirement is belief. Believing in something under such circumstances is always an act of faith.