Sunday, February 25, 2007

Introduction to Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing

During Black History Month (February) Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship has closed every service with the hymn Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. The first Sunday we sang Lift Ev’ry Voice, I introduced it to the congregation. My research uncovered much more than I was able to include in a short talk. Now what is a blogger to do with all that good material, if not to turn it into blog posts! This introduction, therefore, will be followed by four more posts. The first will chronicle the life of James Weldon Johnson, the poet and lyricist of the song. The second post will be devoted to J. Rosamond Johnson, the musician and composer of the song. The last two posts will focus on the song itself.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing was written in 1900 by two brothers who were very accomplished and well known in their time. Though the song was written for a particular event at a particular time in history, its perspective has become timeless for the inspiration it has offered, and offers still. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with it. This link to the NPR’s archives (which requires RealPlayer) will play a lovely choral rendition. As you listen, please follow along with the words below. If the NPR link above doesn’t work for you, listen to this piano version from the Cyberhymnal, reading the words in rhythm with the music.

Words by James Weldon Johnson
Music by J. Rosamond Johnson

The apostrophes (inserted by the author) and hyphens (inserted by the blogger) denote melody pitch changes.

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heav-en ring,
Ring with the har-mon-ies of Li-ber-ty;
Let our re-joic-ing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it re-sound loud as the roll-ing sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the pres-ent has brought us;
Facing the ris-ing sun of our new day be-gun,
Let us march on till vic-tory is won.

Ston-y the road we trod,
Bit-ter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope un-born had died;
Yet with a stead-y beat,
Have not our wear-y feet
Come to the place for which our fath-ers sighed?
We have come o-ver a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, tread-ing our path through the blood of the slaugh-tered,
Out from the gloom-y past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our wear-y years,
God of our si-lent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us in-to the light,
Keep us for-e-ver in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the plac-es, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we for-get Thee;
Sha-dowed be-neath Thy hand,
May we for-e-ver stand,
True to our God,
True to our na-tive land.

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sea Turtle Release

I'm happy to report that 8-10 of the green sea turtles rescued from the cold stranding event of mid-January in South Padre Island, Texas, were to be released on Monday, February 19th. The remaining 90+ turtles were scheduled for release on February 20th and 21st. A very small number of turtles remain in rehab for illness or injury, but the rest of the survivors are in all likelihood back in the Gulf of Mexico now. Hooray!!!!

That's all the information I was able to find to date on the turtles. If there's anything more to report, I'll do so after the 3-part series which will begin in my next post.

P.S. Sorry for the long silence. Sometimes life gets in the way.

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sea Turtle Rescue Update and Pictures

Tonight Sea Turtle Inc. reported that the rescued green sea turtles can be released soon. A total of 148 turtles were rescued, and 111 of them have survived. A few remain at Sea Turtle Inc. The rest are now at the Corpus Christi Fish Hatchery.

Here are some excerpts of the many pictures in Sea Turtle Inc.'s photo album. These pictures will give you a sense of the work that's been done.

Picked off the beaches

Pulled out of the water

Hauled ashore, some weighing up to 100 pounds.

An office full of turtles

to be weighed...

and measured,

and warmed up under heat lamps.

Barnacles are scrubbed off.

dozing, all clean and cozy

and swimming - gorgeous!

Tagged for future study.

Loaded onto trucks

and shipped to Corpus Christi Fish Hatcheries to await warmer weather.

Photos in this post belong to Sea Turtle, Inc., used by permission. 

Friday, February 02, 2007

Silver Flute or Irish Flute?

I am in the throws of a decision. From here on, do I want to work at playing Irish traditional music on the silver orchestral flute or the wooden flute which has become the standard in traditional Irish music circles?

A year ago, the silver flute was my logical choice. I started learning Irish music on the whistle, but its high register began to hurt my ears so I switched to the silver flute. I already owned very fine flute (a handmade Haynes solid silver flute) because in college I majored in music with a concentration in classical flute. Even though I didn’t play for 20 years while my son was growing up, I still have good coordination in my fingers and consistent practicing puts my embouchure back in shape. I took some lessons with Joanie Madden (see my post from July 20, 2006) and learned a few tricks about how to make the ornamentation sound “right” on an instrument that is over-engineered for the demands of Irish music. Until recently I was working on producing a darker sound and was getting some pretty good volume on the low notes.

Then a friend of mine got a new keyless Irish flute, handmade by Patrick Olwell. His wooden flutes are highly regarded, and I just went ga-ga with envy.

About the same time I dropped my own flute. It was the first time in my life I had ever done that. The lid came loose from the the case, and the flute slid out onto the floor, bending the low C# key. While it’s in the shop I’m borrowing my friend’s "student flute" - a Pratten-style Seery polymer flute.

Flutes pictured immediately above are made by Terry McGee.

The wooden flutes from the 19th century had keys and could play the entire chromatic scale. This keyless version is a "relative" of the mid-19th century flute. It lacks the keys of its historical relative, however it's conical construction as well as the shape of the embouchure and spacing of the fingerholes are much the same. Apparently this keyless version was invented in the 1970's during the Irish folk revival. By that time Jean Pierre Rampal's influence in the classical world had made the flute enormously popular. These two factors meant many flute players wanted Irish flutes. Keyed wooden flutes cost at least double what the keyless version costs, and the wait time can be up to four times as long. Therefore, the keyless Irish flute was an ideal solution. 90% of Irish music can be played on the keyless flute, which is pitched in D major but can function in G major as well and the relative minors of those two keys. When playing any of the remaining 10% of the Irish tunes, players of keyless flutes artfully skip certain notes or pick another note in the chord instead. Or just step up to the bar for another beer!

But getting back to the Seery, I confess that it's hard for me to cover the holes. The right-hand position in particular is very different from what's required on the silver flute. I must stretch my fingers as wide as possible and use the middle section of my finger rather than the fingerpad to cover the holes. I’ve been at it a week now, and it’s getting better. (Note that I said better, not more comfortable.) I need to rest after each tune because I don’t have the strength to maintain the stretch for too long, and my tempos need to be slow to consistently cover the holes.

The question is this: which flute do I want to spend my time on? I'm definitely enjoying the novelty of the Irish flute. The fingering is the same as the whistle so it’s easier to switch back and forth. And I like playing the instrument that most traditional players use. There’s a good bit of acceptance in that. However, the silver flute is really more "playable." By that I mean that one can play in any key. The hand position is comfortable. It’s just that the finger coordination needed to accomplish conventional sounding ornamentation is more difficult than what is required on the Irish flute (assuming one has mastered covering the holes on both instruments).

I’ll admit it: I am looking for the shortest route to the level on which I want to play. I’m better on the silver flute, so even though it’s harder in certain respects, I have an advantage because of all my years of study on it. But the coordination is less demanding on the Irish flute – so even though I have to backtrack a bit, it might be worth it in the long run. I’m not worried so much about acceptance of others or the sound the instrument can make. If I play well with a dark, strong tone, I don’t think it will really matter (although some players might disagree).

Unfortunately, writing this post hasn't helped me decide. If you have an opinion, please post a comment. Meanwhile, I’ll experiment with the Seery for a while longer, at least until I get my Haynes back. Then, who knows? All I can say is: I'll keep you posted. (GROAN!! very bad pun, sorry folks!)

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement