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Thursday February 22, 2018 at 8:00am Age: 299 days
Category: High School, District


Of the evocative numbers chorus students will perform during their concert on Tuesday, Feb. 27, the Chamber Choir will deliver a moving rendition of “Soon-Ah Will Be Done,” a classic plantation gospel song. 

Like so many songs of this emotional genre, it is a cry for release from bondage, and it was echoed by generations of plantation slave workers. These African spirituals were preserved in part by the work of African-American composers such as William L. Dawson and Hall Johnson who first arranged them for the choirs of black colleges in the 1920’s. Eventually, they became widely published and entered the repertoires of school, college and community choral programs across the United States.

“Our choral students recognize the importance of black composers and the African music tradition in our lives. They celebrate Black History Month with great pride and enthusiasm,” said Victor Izzo III, music and choral teacher, and director of MVHS choral program.

The students' experience...

For Jonathan Howard, a sophomore, African spirituals are a way to harness the life experience of slaves. “This particular song [“Soon-Ah Will Be Done] reflects the slaves' relationship with the overseers,” Jonathan explained. “Their voices would rise up, or hush down, depending on whether they could be heard. These men and women were taking risks to tell their stories. That shows a spirit that even bondage and oppression can't take away." And he intends to honor that spirit. "Singing about the lives of slaves and their struggles is very different from singing 'just because' you like a song."

For Joshua Simpson, a senior, these songs are personal. “I’m singing about my heritage, about the world I came from, and what my ancestors went through. I feel it in my blood,” Joshua said. “This music is a chance to bring the lives of millions of slave workers into the light— their struggles, desires, and their hopes for freedom. You get emotional and you feel a responsibility to sing it right.”

Danielle Bellettieri, senior, recalls that “Soon-Ah Will Be Done” was a topic of discussion at the All County competitions. “We talked a lot about the dynamics of the song and their meaning. Sometimes the voices are soft and quiet, as if singing in secret. Sometimes they rise freely and boldly because they either felt safe to sing for a time, or because they didn’t care what happened to them anymore,” Danielle explained. “There’s a lot of meaning to every element, and we have the responsibility to bring that across. For instance, I have to reach a high B-Flat during the last line, ‘we’re going to live with God.’ It's an expression of the ultimate freedom, and it’s like a cry of victory.”

Sarah Cinelli, a senior, affirms that every choir member is passionate about this song. “It represents a part of our history I’m not proud of, but I’m grateful to be able to give voice to the stories of African slaves, and make sure they’re not forgotten,” Sarah said. 

Other traditional gospel songs MVHS choruses have studied this year celebrated the history and the leaders of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and and 60s.

Please join us for a very special choral event this Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7PM. Support our students and join them in a celebration of America's diverse music traditions.