As our next concert series approaches, we wanted to share with you a moment that stunned us all in rehearsal last night.
A steadfast hope.
It was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s favorite song, and is published in over 40 languages. Legendary musicians from Leontyne Price to Aretha Franklin to Beyonce have filled eyes and hearts with the passionate lyrics enveloped in their voices.
Last night, the incredible voice of our very own James Splond is heard singing the familiar text - allowing us (for a moment) into the deeply personal interior space of an artist.
We were rendered speechless.
Hearing James sing like that made this rehearsal about so much more than preparing for a concert. It was so...deeply human.
We were lucky to have been recording the rehearsal, so we can share with you James's stunning singing:
And you know what? As we dove into the actual history of "Take My Hand," we discovered the story of its origination, and the triumph of hope in the midst of utter heartbreak.
Thomas A. Dorsey, "Father of Black Gospel Music," and his wife, Nettie, were expecting the arrival of their firstborn child. As Dorsey was away on a trip, Nettie gave birth to their son.
"Back in 1932 I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s Southside. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go. Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child. But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. . . .
". . . In the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED. . . .
"When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him any more or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. . ."
It's been years now of uncertainty, reckoning, loss, hope, change ... and and and and...
So, our hope on May 1 and May 15 is to keep a candle lit with you, in this music, as we "keep vigil" together in joy and in loss.
Listen to Thomas A. Dorsey himself describe composing "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" in a short interview below: