Bob Lee had been in frail health, but yesterday’s news of his passing came as a shock. He sang and drummed with the Spirituals Choir when we performed our annual lunchtime concert at the Oak Bluffs senior center last Thursday. He was at rehearsal the night before. He’s been at virtually all our rehearsals and (many!) performances this year, and he’s been part of the choir since it began nine years ago.
Many of the slave songs deal with journeys. In “Fare You Well” slaves who’ve been sold away take leave of family and friends. Separation could happen at any time. The slaves sang the hope of reunion, in the next world if not in this one:
You may bury me in the East
You may bury me in the West
But I’ll hear the trumpet sound
in that morning
For slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad, the journey ahead was long, the partings hard, but the destination — freedom — made it all worth while.
Done made my vow to the Lord
and I never till turn back
I will go, I shall go
to see what the end will be
We’re singing for you, Bob, and missing you so much. Hear the angels singing?