In celebration of Juneteenth (19th June), I present my favourite renditions of Lift Every Voice. Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of African Americans who were enslaved in the United States. The hymn lift every voice was composed as a poem
as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson.
Kim Weston, the first ever pop star to record ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, chants the Black National Anthem at the 1972 Watts Stax benefit concert in Los Angeles, to a race of people, beautiful both in suffering and in thriving.
There are trumpets at the beginning, and her vocalising on D major has a reggae flavour, much like Bob Marley’s. Her intense vibrato throbs and pulsates through all three verses of the anthem. Weston indeed growls with heavy passion, in complement to the chimes of the organ, which is also intensified with the bass as the song fades out. My favourite notes are do ‘Do re me se la’ at ‘facing the rising sun’. I love how her voice bounces off the time signature as the instruments give a beautiful chord progression. The clip from Martin Luther King is inspiring, bring me to tears.
The rendition of Lift Every Voice by Brandon Camphor and Oneway is on E flat major. The group’s lovely chemistry, with yummy oohs in the mixed voice at the beginning is evident, with their group singing sonorously in chest voice, and then every member getting thechance to freestyle, belting and doing riffs and runs. The employment of dynamics throughout the song is very nice. I love the fact that this is an awesome addition to the different deliveries of the age old Black National Anthem.
The promised land in Martin Luther King’s time was about equal civil and political rights for blacks. Prior to that, it was literally about freedom for black peoples who were under the yoke of slavery. It was an arduous journey, but God was with us every step of the way, as Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation freeing slaves was enacted in 1863, and effected in all states by 1865. Today, it’s about the protection of black lives from unjust killings by police officers, as well as against general prejudicial behaviour against black peoples.
God is concerned and pained by everything that concerns and pains us. (Hebrews 4:15) Sometimes, it may feel as if God isn’t doing anything about certain things, but we must remember that the earth belongs to man and for God to act, we must ask him to. Therefore, we must pray. We must ask him to show new ways to attack this subject and bring out practical solutions. We need to ask for better and more effective ways to go about activism for legislature and behavioural changes.
Do you see the promised land in this situation?