This weekend, Curry will join choirs from Endicott College, UMass Boston, and Merrimack to present a concert of African-American Choral Music. From 19th-century spirituals to modern compositions, gospels to freedom songs, the music offers several perspectives on the African-American experience. In addition to five numbers presented by the combined choirs, Sing! will perform the classic Keep Your Lamps arranged by Andre Thomas and The Word Was God by Rosephanye Powell. The former work, though musically uncomplicated, provides a gripping lesson in perseverance.
Written by a community living under unimaginable oppression, the lyrics remind us to be ready at a moment's notice for whatever opportunities may—or may not—arise. Those participating in the song's composition had survived forced migration to the coasts of Africa, while as many as 30% of those captured did not. They survived the crossing of the Atlantic, while as many as 30% of those on board the boats did not. They survived hunger, deprivation, families being split apart, beatings without cause, and worst of all, the insult of living as property. And still they sang, "Keep your lamps trimmed and burning, the time is drawing nigh." I believe these slaves understood far more about theology, faith, and the fruit of the spirit than any of their so-called "Christian" masters.
I'm sometimes tempted to complain about this or that, usually some minor annoyance that I'll forget about in a few minutes. However, this music reminds me of the nature of hope, putting life in perspective. It demonstrates the unbelievable breadth and depth to which human cruelty can reach and helps us to see that the effects of choices 150-200 years ago ripple into the present day. It states emphatically that if this happened once in our history, it can happen again unless we actively and continually choose liberty and justice for all.
May we remember our ancestor's mistakes, redouble our efforts "to bind up the nation's wounds", and not grow weary in standing watch.
The time is drawing nigh.