The enduring legacy of a type of religious folk song that was created by African-Americans and is most closely associated with the enslavement of African people in the American South is being preserved with an upcoming musical program at Trinity United Methodist Church.
The Trinity UMC Music Ministry, in partnership with the Claflin University Choral Music Department, will present “My Soul Says, Yes: Preserving the Negro Spiritual” at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the church, which is located at 185 Boulevard St. NE in Orangeburg.
The program will feature performances by visiting choirs and The Jarvis Brothers. Choruses will perform under their respective directors from the following high schools: North, director Christopher Gladman; Orangeburg-Wilkinson, director Glenn Nixon and Lakewood, director Herbert Johnson.
Guest performances will also include soprano Karen Amos-Moss and the Claflin University Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. Isaiah McGee.
A video presentation featuring an abbreviated history of the Negro spiritual will also be shown.
“The effort is to make sure that we keep the legacy alive not just by informing the church community or the African-American community, of the place of the Negro spiritual in the history of this country and the church, but to offer it to everyone,” said Rev. Mack McClam, pastor of Trinity UMC.
“We have grown to a place in our culture where they’re kind of put on the back burner. We pull them out at a certain season or time, but they live across the span of time,” McClam said, referring to the Negro spiritual and the significance of its messages.
“It’s inspiration to have confidence to deal with the present. Lord knows, we have enough to deal with in the present. It provides for us insight to look back and see what God’s done for us in fulfilling his covenant in the past and how he’s dealing with us to have confidence to deal with the present,” he said.
“We ought to be able to receive insight to give us courage to face the future,” McClam said, noting that Negro spirituals do not solely cover “the sad dark period in the history of slavery.”
The pastor said the inclusion of high school choruses was a way to engage youth in preserving the legacy of the Negro spiritual.
“It’s a method of making sure that we get the message to our younger generation of the importance of the Negro spiritual in the life of the church and in the developing of a congenial community where people can live together,” he said.
“We’re trying to weave a beautiful tapestry between the old and the new as we look to build a better future," McClam said. "This program is just the start, and we hope to build on that foundation as one of the ways to reach out to the community."