African American Spirituals

Come Be In the Midst of Us!

With our final Sing-along workshop of the season, Deep Waters, this Saturday at Epworth United Methodist Church, we thought we’d talk to longtime PEV member, Annette Cayot about her experience of the event held at Epworth last spring. Annette joined the chorus in 1980, first as a soprano, then switching to the alto section in the following season. She became Treasurer of the group’s non-profit corporation in 1981, holding that post continually through 2015. Annette has sung in every concert season since joining. But, in addition to being a PEV member, she also happens to be a lifelong member of Epworth UMC.

Last year, I was delighted to bring the Sing-along to Epworth. Some members of our church choir had taken part in an earlier Sing-along event, and their experience was so positive that they expressed to me an interest in holding such an event at Epworth. One thing led to another, and we were able to make the arrangements.

As you might imagine, joining two very long-term communities together for a single event can be stressful. For me, though, it was ultimately overwhelmingly gratifying.

If I had to describe the Sing-along experience, I would say that it is healing, transformative, community-building, centering… and more. I heard many people talk about their joy at being surrounded by so many voices, making music or even just listening. People also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with our director, Lynne Morrow—to experience for themselves her ability to encourage glorious sounds from an assembled group of people, representing many different levels on the musical experience spectrum.

As for me, I really love being part of an expanded chorus at these events. The Sing-along is a more intimate way, than the straight concert performance, for us to share our love of music. I also think this is a great way to experience the Spirituals genre. The power of this music is best experienced in the singing of it. A number of people who don’t really consider themselves singers, yet attended out of interest, said they found being in the midst of a chorus was really uplifting.

I can’t wait to do it again! I hope you’ll join us at my church, 3pm on Saturday, April 16th.

Follow this link for tickets (purchasing tickets helps us know how many copies of the music to bring), or just come on over!

Share

Lynne’s reflections on Cuban Sing-Along

Cuba Revisited

It was such a thrill to teach and sing the music for our Cuban Workshop. To feel that rich culture taking us right back to our unique tour, where we took dance and drum and chant lessons from Masters of the Folkloric Tradition.

Afro-Cuban dance master Kati Hernandez by Liza GuizarThere is nothing like singing that rhythmic music which is the source of so much American popular music. It makes the body move without thinking about it. It makes the voice follow the body. Greatness!

And our workshop guest, Erick Barberia, was a great teacher of some difficult chants. This music is outside of most of our quick understanding and yet he led us to it, step by step, phrase by phrase. When new listeners begin to feel where that chant lines up with the beat, it is pure joy.

So, we learned a favorite Cuban folk song, Son de la Loma, and two Yemaya songs, dedicated to the goddess of the sea. I can’t wait for the next step!

Lynne Morrow, Music Director
January 2016

Share

Group Singing for Sharing Good Vibes and Good Health!

As a singer and voice teacher, I am continually surprised by the number of people who will come up to me after a church service and say, “I am so glad you were singing; I could actually hear the melody and sing along…” This is frequently followed a statement, offered sheepishly, “I wish I could really sing.”

Elisabeth Eliassen Voice TeacherIf you have, or anyone you know has, ever been told, “you shouldn’t be singing” or “stop that racket!” or “you can’t carry a tune in a bucket”, I am here to say, it ain’t so! And I heartily encourage you and everyone to make a joyful noise!

The human voice is an essential built-in coping and self-healing mechanism, not just a tool for artistic expression. I have rarely encountered a small child who doesn’t sing while playing alone. When I was a child, I made up songs that I sang to my cat at bedtime. My teenagers still sing songs at night and in the shower and while doing chores and homework, or when they have been upset.

More and more clinical studies are outlining the measurable health benefits of singing. The release of endorphins and oxytocin during the act of singing has been found to: Alleviate anxiety and stress; lessen depression and loneliness; enhance a sense of wellbeing and belonging; contribute to feelings of trust, bonding and community. At least seven therapeutic outcomes from group singing experiences have been documented and studied: Communication, cognition, cooperative engagement, confidence, relationship building, personal empowerment, and physical exercise culminating in stress reduction.

The long and the short of it is this, to paraphrase the title of the well-known hymn, “How can you keep from singing?”

All of this is just a way for me to say you don’t have to wait: Come on out and join us for our next Spirituals Sing-along!

When is that, you ask? And where? Why, it is coming up this very weekend! Halloween Saturday, to be exact! You can find all the details at this link to our event ticket page.

Mary Had a Baby: Advent and African American Spirituals
11:00 am St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, 525 29th St, Oakland

We look forward to singing with you!

Elisabeth Eliassen,
member of the alto section since 1994

//
The following articles were consulted in the writing of this entry:

Brian Eno Lists the Benefits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intelligence, and a Sound Civilization, Colin Marshall for Open Culture, February 27, 2015

Singing Changes Your Brain, Stacy Horn for Time Magazine August 16, 2013

Singing on Prescription? for Medical News Today, January 18, 2010

Share

Back to Top