Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

Background, histories, development & commentary

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
in certain turns, twists, and intonations not represented by any musical term. To be appreciated, it must be heard.
In the "American History and Encyclopaedia of Music" is found the following statement: "In order to form a true conception of Negro Songs it is necessary to hear them sung by their creators. For the Negro possesses a peculiar quality of voice which it is next to impossible to ■imitate.'" True, there is a "peculiar quality" in the Negro voice, which it is difficult if not "impossible" to "imitate"; but it is more than "quality of voice" which makes the Negro sing�ing interesting; it is the use of the voice. This use of the voice is what gives that subtle, indescribable effect in some of the Folk Songs, which many find so fascinatingly strange. This effect is produced without conscious effort, it is only the natural expression of what the singer feels. Success in singing Negro Folk Song is dependent upon a certain spiritual condition, a religious state. The voice is not nearly so important as the spirit.
Of course, the ideal singer of this music is the one whose spiritual condition is deepest and whose voice is best. There are those whose minds as well as whose spirits, voices, and experience finely fit them for the satisfactory singing of this music. Among those who have almost perfected the art of "Jubilee Singing," Mrs. Ella Sheppard Moore of the Original Jubilee Singers, now of blessed memory, but who is still an inspiration to us who are studying Negro music; Mrs. Mabel Grant Hadley and Kev. James A. Myers, are prominent ex�amples. Education and training have not taken from them that spirituality and courage necessary to a proper rendering of these songs. That quality as expressed in the ability to sing the folk song effectively "is not prevalent among the educated Negroes, for it is considered bad musical taste by most of those who teach Negroes. This is because such teachers have no comprehension of the impor�tance of race consciousness, or they have no understanding of the worth of the music. Some are, as yet, too thoroughly possessed of the classical idea, or too sensitive to the question of slavery to give serious study to this music, but the time is coming when the essen�tials of the Negro Folk Song will be the dominant forces in a new music. "The composer is yet to arise," states the History and En�cyclopaedia of Music, "who will take those bits of melody, typical of his race, and on them construct compositions of true artistic work."