Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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When Fisk University was chartered after the close of the war the treasurer was moved to devote his leisure hours to the instruction of the pupils in vocal music. Their voices and progress were both a surprise and delight. Five years later the Jublilee Singers of the University sang before the National Council at Oberlin. Leading Congregational ministers and laymen from all parts of the land were thrilled not only by the sweetness of their voices and the accuracy of execution, but were charmed also by the wonderful feeling of the plantation melodies which were entirely new to them. As a member of that Council in 1871, I was present and well remember the marvelous magic of their song with its accompanying rythm and the revelation it gave of the Negroes' religious nature and experience. This was the introduction to the American people of the folk songs with which the Jubilee Singers of this University went on a triumphant tour around the world, the new world and the old.
It is a far cry from that day of the introduction of these folk songs which has their expression and birth among the days of bondage, and which have been faithfully preserved and steadfastly cherished for the light they give in their quaintness of expression upon the experiences which call them forth, and for the exquisite melodies which touch a chord that the most consummate art fails to reach.
Professor Work not only presents a remarkable collection of these folk songs of his race, but in the study of their evolution and history he brings an interpretative and enlightening analysis of their characteristics and qualities with a literary expression which is only second to the songs themselves, and which will richly repay attention. As one of a race whose historic life in this country is so recent, Professor Work understands and realizes how it is that the accumulated strength of a patient overcoming of trials on the part of souls in their aspiration and struggles, called forth the inspiration of these songs, while God in the hard processes of His providence was leading His people to a permanent inheritance. For many years an honored professor in his Alma Mater, like the original instructor of the Jubilee Singers, Professor Work has turned from his classes in Latin to assist in his leisure hours in the musical education of students, especially to keep in mind the days in which these folk songs sprang into light. All added attraction to this choice collection of melodies of the people of his race are those of his own composition, which have already won their way into the pleased recognition of all who have heard them.
A. F. BeaRd,
Secretary American Missionary Association.