“Lift Every Voice” is the national anthem of the civil rights movement. Its message acknowledges the past with hope for the future. Momentary pause on this, as I give some background before proceeding.
When I auditioned to be the Director of Music, one of the hymns requested was “Lift Every Voice.” As someone whose life has been spent playing hymns – my first church position was in junior high – and also as someone who has played significantly in a wide variety of styles, I struggled with how to approach this particular hymn. The version in our 1982 Hymnal feels…not right. We discussed possibilities for what a more authentic version could be. It was a good conversation that ended with me playing a gospel-ized version on the piano in the choir room.
Although I have many professional acquaintances in Atlanta now, it is an honor to call the Director (Dr. Kevin Johnson) and the Assistant Director (soon-to-be-Dr. Brittney Boykin) of the Spelman College Glee Club as friends. That friendship has resulted in conversations on a large number of topics, not the least of which being collaborating. The following, that was a dream, is now a reality.
A new arrangement of “Lift Every Voice” that is both a hymn – for future hymnals or hymnal supplements – and a choir anthem, where either component could be extracted for its use, or combined for one larger extended work, is being composed by Dr. Kevin Johnson of Spelman College. If you look closely in the audience in the following video – just to the right of center, about five rows back (at:45 and 1:03) – you’ll recognize my bald head. Dr. Johnson is on the congas and Ms. Boykin is at the piano. This is just one example of his stellar arrangements:
This project will be a collaboration between the choirs of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church and School, Clayton State University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College. I will be working closely with Bill and other local leaders in the African-American community as we craft the interfaith service and engage the broader community.
- 2020 (Summer) - Down payment for composition
- 2021 (Summer) - Composition finished
- 2021 - All groups prepare the composition
- Feb. 2022 - Black History Month premiere to coincide with HIEC’s 150th Sesquicentennial celebration. Interfaith service with Holy Innocents’, Clayton State University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College
2022 is our 150th (Sesquicentennial) anniversary. As a believer in divine choreography, this could not be more timely, especially in these times that so desperately need hope. My thanks to Rev. Dr. Bill Murray for his support from the onset and also to the Friends of Music for helping this project become a reality.
It is a sincere pleasure to make music with you here.
Dr. Sean Vogt, Director of Music