Heard the Voice

by Andrew Jamieson

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about

This conversation is with African American spirituals. Whether rooted in song, dance and drumming of West Africa, the experience of oppression by an uprooted people, or the teachings of a transformative faith, they are a voice of human truth. Songs of black American slaves spoke that truth around the world. Responses emerged: an array of arrangements, whole new genres of music, and work for a more just world.

Andrew Jamieson is dedicated to spiritual transformation through his work as a pianist, keyboardist, composer and arranger. With a passion for black gospel music, he plays for faith communities including City of Refuge UCC in Oakland and serves as Minister of Music at Bethel Community Presbyterian Church in San Leandro.

credits

released August 18, 2015

- Recorded on April 7th and 14th, 2015 by Shanna Sordahl at Ex’pression College in Emeryville, California. - Mixed and mastered by Andrew Weathers. - Cover art by Katy Warner.
Thanks also to Tom Bickley, Patti Deuter, Ric Louchard, Ernest Larkins, Brenda and Stuart Barnes Jamieson and Elizabeth Powers, and the people of Bethel Community Presbyterian Church, Tapestry Ministries and City of Refuge United Church of Christ for your support in this project.

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Edgetone Records San Francisco, California

Edgetone Records was founded by musician/producer, Rent Romus. The label took shape in 1991 to support his group’s original jazz recordings. After being on a long hiatus Rent re-opened Edgetone in January 2000 and expanded it to support new music crossing the genre boundaries specifically for D.I.Y. (do it yourself) artists looking for a ground base and community label identity. ... more

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Track Name: Hands on the Plow
1. Heard the voice of Jesus say Come unto me, I am the way. Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.

2. When my way gets dark as night, I know the Lord will be my light, Keep your hand on the plow, hold on. Chorus: Hold on, Hold on Keep your hand on the plow, Hold on, Hold on. Later rewritten for the civil rights movement, this song represents a dialogue. Profound challenges seem to oppose our call from "the voice of Jesus." A storm of aggressive low-register flourishes embodies our struggles. A strident and determined melody reminds us to "Hold on," proclaiming justice will prevail.
Track Name: Ezekiel Saw the Wheel
Ezek’el saw the wheel ‘Way up in de middle ob de air, Ezek’el saw the wheel ‘Way in de middle ob the air. De big wheel run by faith, An’ de little wheel run by de grace ob God, ‘Tis a wheel in a wheel — ‘Way in the middle ob the air. 1. Some go to church fo’ to sing an’ shout, ‘Way in de middle o’ de air, Befo’ six months dey are all turned out, ‘Way in de middle o’ de air. (Text from Religious Folk Songs of the Negro from the Hamton Institute, 1920) The songwriters called it a wheel in the air. I might have called it a flying saucer, perhaps the one that brought Sun Ra. Our limited linguistic and cultural vocabulary encounter a profound and unknown power. We respond but never fully grasp it. Meditating on this experience, I present the simple 5-note melody in the futuristic polytonal sonorities that might capture the sounds of a UFO. A cloud of dissonant and disjunct notes makes its own statement, as startling and overwhelming as the divine.
Track Name: There is a Balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole; There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sinsick soul. 1. Sometimes I feel discouraged And think my work's in vain, But then the Holy Spirt Revives my soul again. (Text from Negro Spirituals by Harry T. Burleigh, 1917) Internal dialogue emerged in composing this piece. I tried juxtaposing clashing rhythms and intervals with soothing and healing harmonies. Eventually I heard common ground emerge. The resulting sounds could represent the swirling of the Spirit, or the power and discord of true healing that requires stepping far beyond our comfort zone. A balm is an oil, in this case used for healing, both physical and spiritual.
Track Name: In the Air
Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a god somewhere. --- Wade in the water. Wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water. If you don’t believe I’ve been redeemed, God’s gonna trouble the water. Then follow me down to the Jordan stream. God’s gonna trouble the water. Wade in the Water evokes an image of transformation through the water. Over My Head declares a divine presence in the air. We interact and converse with air and water, as essential parts of creation that shape and enhance our lives. This piece evokes the sound of air rushing over our heads and water flowing beneath us. The melodies express an experience of these elements.
Track Name: Elijah Rock/Hush
...Elijah rock Shout shout shout Elijah rock Coming up Lord If I could I surely would Stand on the rock where Moses stood --- 1. Hush! Hush! Somebody’s callin’ my name! Hush, Hush! Somebody’s callin’ my name! Hush! Hush! Somebody’s callin’ my name! Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord what shall I do? Each section and phrase of Elijah Rock represents its own thematic and musical layer, and a group conversation forms when they come together. My arrangement, inspired by Moses Hogan, presents each new layer as a response to the previous one,. It also depicts Elijah’s heroic yet overwhelming work of sharing truth with his community. The arrival of the melody of Hush adds a divine presence expressed through a still small voice.
Track Name: Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Chile
Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile. Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile. Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile. A long ways from home. A long ways from home. (Text from Negro Spirituals by Harry T. Burleigh, 1917) The pain in this song is not entirely familiar to me, as a white person who has benefited from the effects of slavery, segregation and racism more than suffering from them. Constant atonal sonorities give me a taste of what it might be like to feel abandoned, rejected, or unloved. Their downward motion is perhaps a form of oppression. Strains of the melody, often only two or three notes, cry the tune against this texture, ultimately subsumed by it.
Track Name: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home. Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home. 1. I looked over Jordan, and what did I see Coming for to carry me home. A band of angels coming after me. Coming for to carry me home. (Text from Negro Spirituals by Harry T. Burleigh, 1917) This song has a well-known double meaning. Elijah's chariot is code for the constellation that pointed north toward the free states during slavery. The song has a rich interaction of religious and secular themes, with the oppressed subverting the oppressor. Traditionally, a soloist would sing the first line and an ensemble the repeated phrase of the second line. I emphasize this call and response texture in my own re-presentation.
Track Name: Give Me Jesus
1. Oh when I come to die, Oh when I come to die, Oh when I come to die, Give me Jesus. Chorus: Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus. You may have all dis worl’, Give me Jesus. (Text from The Most Popular Plantation Songs by Gilbert Clifford Noble, 1911)
Track Name: I've Got Peace Like a River
1. I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river In my soul. Faith traditions may use different terms, symbols and stories, but all have something they treasure and hold most deeply. In this song, Jesus is the most deeply held treasure. He is desired above “all the world” and pervades our lives up through death. The melody comes amidst a rich harmony with the same stable presence many experience in Jesus, or another core symbol of faith. It allows each fragment to blend into a single sound. Eventually, strains of "I've Got Peace Like a River" replace these fragments, with the accompanying texture as river currents.
Track Name: We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder
1. We are climbing Jacob’s ladder, We are climbing Jacob’s ladder, We are climbing Jacob’s ladder, Soldier of the cross. 2. Ev’ry round goes higher and higher, Ev’ry round goes higher and higher,, Ev’ry round goes higher and higher, Soldiers of the cross. (Text from Religious Folk Songs of the Negro from the Hamton Institute, 1920) The simple melody and harmonies reminiscent of John Cage interact. They ascend into a celestial resolution.
Track Name: Amen
Chorus: Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen. 1. See the baby Amen Lying in the manger Amen On Chistmas morning. Amen, amen, amen. 2. See him at the temple Amen Talking with the elders Amen Who marveled at his wisdom Amen, amen, amen. 3. See him at the seaside Amen Where John was baptizing Amen And saving all sinners “Amen” could mean “let it be.” In this case it carries a mood of celebration. A simple chord and rhythmic structure interact both with the melody and with free improvisation, and build this celebration to a climax.