He was teaching blues history class in the morning and gospel in the afternoon, linked. One person asks about cultural appropriation. The Reverend says that he thinks songs and history are important. He asked if there are songs that he should not sing because they are “white” songs. He says there ARE songs that he WON’T sing because they are racist or sexist. But that if a white person does not sing a song because it’s “black”, he doesn’t think that makes any sense. And he traces history in his classes of how musicians of many races and genders influenced each other and continue to influence each other.
He and other instructors talk about musical skills and guitar and acoustic instrument skills and singing styles that are being forgotten and lost. We are blessed with recordings and he gave us a four page list of people to listen to…. I knew some, Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson, and others I’ve heard of and others I don’t know at all. Homework for the next year!
Blessings on this day for you and everyone, all the world.
CentrumVoiceworks last week. I did not get a wonderful photograph of the Reverend Robert B. Jones, Sr. He was moving and I did not want to use a flash! He did two classes a day, an am blues class and an afternoon gospel class. They wove together. He talked about how the pentatonic scale came with enslaved Africans and met the European music and produced spirituals, praise songs, the blues and gospel. He also spoke about how the early blues musicians were playing acoustic guitar in noisy places, so the guitar was rhythm, harmony and bass, all at once. He traced how the changes in circumstances is reflected in the changes in music in the United States and how musicians of all races and creeds influence each other. He talks about the history of music as healing.
I didn’t get a great photograph of him, but here is another student:
And here is the teacher, engaged:
Thank you, Reverend, for your amazing classes, singing, guitar playing and the final blues jam after the concert on Friday night!
Another fabulous Voiceworks class, this with Anna and Elizabeth. As the week progressed and we ate lunch and dinner with the instructors at the tables as well as each other, I felt more and more blessed and impressed. These teachers said, “Come talk to us. We have time. We are here and you can talk to us between classes.” What generosity and blessing.
This is Ruth Merenda, one of the many brilliant faculty, from a Centrum Voiceworks class this week.
Ruthie was at Voiceworks with her husband Mike and two children. I got to trade jokes with their son William at lunch one day. I am listening to their newest album as I write this, Sunshiner. It’s good that only really hear the faculty near the end of the week, because we would be WAY too intimidated if they did the concerts at the start! William has an album too, Piano Nerd, that I have not tracked down yet. He was seven when he made it.
I took the first class of the week with Michael, his Song Doctor class. We each brought a song with problems to the class and sang it to the class. I did that class first because it was hands down no holds barred the scariest, so I thought best to get it over with. I sang Tree Boat a capella. The feedback I got makes me very happy, but the assignment is hard: now I have to learn guitar. Or mandolin. Or something. Accompaniment. Also it’s not my song alone: I wrote the poem but not the melody.
I took two classes with Ruthie. One was on music theory and chords. The other was a performance feedback class.
I had a rather surreal moment in that class. Ruthie has us close our eyes and visualize a protective sphere of energy around us. Now, I’ve been writing about trying to lose my armor suit. So WHAT am I to do with a protective sphere of energy? I thought of my story Good Girl and that gave me my answer. My protective sphere moved outwards, the entire universe. I visualize that protection as holding everyone in the room, gently, lovingly. My protective sphere is my connection to the Beloved and the Beloved’s entire universe and anything beyond that. And then I could do the visualization.
Blessings on Mike and Ruth and their children and on all of the teachers at Voiceworks. The week brought me tears of joy over and over and over: and tears of grief and tears of hope.
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