Our grandmothers propelled themselves on “church” music as they tackled the often manual and challenging tasks of the day. They hummed “Father I Stretch My Hands to Thee,” while ironing shirts so perfectly they threatened to stand on their own. They moaned “Amazing Grace” while measuring ingredients for the next pound cake. And as they aged, they summoned heaven with “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” feeling the need for real rest. This is the music that nurtured the Black church and gave it the strength it required to be powerful in the pulpit, pivotal in the community, prophetic in the political arena and perpetual in the ongoing story.
This is the music that formed the rich tradition of the Black church and this is the music to be sung by the newly formed Community Concert Choir of Baltimore under the direction of well known local music master, Dr. Marco K. Merrick.
The inaugural concert is 4 p.m., Nov. 7 at the Historic Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave., where the Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway Sr. is pastor.
“All too often we find ourselves in Black churches where the music unique to our history and culture is not rendered; and in some cases, not known or even recognized,” Merrick said, adding that there’s a place for all genres of music in the Black church tradition.
“It deeply saddens me that many of our churches and musicians now don’t share the spirituals, hymns and anthems that were staples in our history.”
He doesn’t buy the sentiment that such music is passé or that young people don’t relate to it. “If we don’t share and teach what helped to bring us through the remarkable experiences of our existence here building this country, a significant piece of our heritage will be lost forever,” Merrick said.
The choir wasn’t just his idea. “God has ways of speaking to us quietly and sometimes not so quietly,” he said. “When I responded that I would try to start something that seemed to be needed and wanted, the response was tremendous.”
People have come from many denominations, churches, schools and organizations – and across racial lines. “It really is a community choir. It’s meeting a need for those who are not having the opportunity to hear or sing this music in their own churches,” Merrick said.
The concert music staff includes William H. Sydnor Sr., organist; Jimothy Rodgers, keyboardist and pianist; Jocque Brown, percussionist.
With more than good music to offer, the concert also serves as a fundraiser for the Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to help children in Baltimore area schools.
For more information or to make contributions visit deltalambda.org or call 410-233-5032.