Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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method, we think, is more interesting, and since it is more natural, is more nearly correct and certainly most effective. To explain: When the chorus is singing one of these songs, some voice strikes an entirely new and pleasing note in the harmony. This singer is often unconscious of his departure, oftentimes he knows little if anything of the theory of music. Then, again, small groups of students get together to "harmonize" or "chord." Here, too, new and striking combinations of tones are sometimes struck. Again, some of the musical organizations, composed of those who really understand the technique of music, in searching for harmonies, glide into certain resolutions which are entirely new. All of these are immediately written into their appropriate songs and become parts of them. The plan here has been to combine natural, spontaneous melody with natural, spontaneous harmony. The result has been a most natural kind of satisfaction. Of course, in some measure the harmonies have been worked out according to the rules of the theory of harmony.
The most decided effort at development at Fisk was a cantata, "Out of the Depths," which was rendered publicly several times in Nashville. It is still in manuscript. It tells the story of a slave girl who was sold from her parents, to go down South, and describes the scene just before and at the time of parting, the struggle and trials of her life, "The Camp Meeting/7 the "Big Meeting," the scenes common to slave life, and the coming of freedom. Into this cantata all the best of the folk songs are brought, but some of them are so changed that they seem new. Probably the most effective of all is the "Bright Sparkles in the Church Yard," which is developed into a touching lullaby. "I am Troubled in Mind," "O Wretched Man that I Am," "You May Bury. Me in the East," are used effectively as solos. The changes in "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" add some strength and power, while the climax is reached in "Free at Last." No claims of especial merit are made for this cantata, but it does show the possibilities in the folk songs for development.
Those who have been at different times head of Fisk University have had some "favorite" among the folk songs.
Dr. Erastus M. Cravath simply loved "You May Bury in the East," and he never let pass an opportunity to have Mrs. Agnes Haynes Work sing that song.
Dr. James G. Merrill enjoyed to the uttermost the "Great Camp Meeting" as the student body would pour it forth in torrents of harmony.