Monthly Archives: May 2014

In the News

The U.S. Slave Song Project and its Spirituals Choir were featured in the May 29 issue of the Martha’s Vineyard Times. Check it out!

On Friday, May 30, the choir made its first presentation of its 10th anniversary season at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. Our mostly young audience was very attentive, and they asked great questions.

Our next public appearance will be as part of the regular service at the Chilmark Community Church on Sunday, June 15, 9 a.m. On Tuesday, June 17, at 1 p.m. we’ll be singing at the Anchors, the home of the Edgartown Council on Aging.


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Why We Sing: Paula

This is the first of a series introducing members of the M.V. Spirituals Choir and why we sing. Thanks, Paula, for kicking it off.


Paula Martin: “I sing in the Spirituals Choir because I support Jim’s outstanding educational and accurate accounts of the slave movement. His unique presentations, through narratives and singing spirituals, deepens my understanding of and appreciation for my own family’s history. Being a part of this group truly enriches my life and makes me so very proud of my African-American heritage!”

Paula sings every chance she gets. She’s been in the Spirituals Choir
for 10+ years and is a mainstay of the alto section.

That's Paula at top right, from our performance at the West Tisbury Congregational Church in August 2013.

That’s Paula at top right, from our performance at the West Tisbury Congregational Church in August 2013.

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Welcome @ Grace

“We’re gonna sit at the welcome table,” sang the slaves, who weren’t welcome at any plantation’s welcome table — unless, of course, they were serving, in which case sitting was out of the question.

Grace Church, Vineyard Haven

Grace Church, Vineyard Haven

For its first two rehearsals, the Spirituals Choir was welcomed to the parish hall of Trinity United Methodist Church in the Campground. This week we rehearsed at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven.

Rain drizzled, the sky was overcast, but the sanctuary glowed with light through the stained-glass windows as we sang.

“Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” “Rockin’ Jerusalem,” “In Bright Mansions” . . .

“Done Made My Vow,” explained director Jim Thomas, founder of the U.S. Slave Song Project, is about the vow made by slaves before they escaped on the Underground Railroad.

Done made my vow to the Lord
And I never will turn back
I will go, I shall go, to see what the end will be

It might be the first vow a slave had ever made. Only free people can make and keep vows.

Jim directs the sopranos and the tenors.

Jim directs the sopranos and the tenors.

The passion is the most important thing, says Jim. After a run-through of “Where Will I Be When the First Trumpet Sounds,” he looked us over and said maybe one or two of us were singing like we wanted to hear the Lord’s answer. We sang it again. “That’s better,” he said. “I’m beginning to believe you.”

Two more performances were announced: Sunday, June 15, at the Chilmark Community Church; and Wednesday, June 25, at the spanking-new West Tisbury library. (See the tab at the top of this page for the schedule so far.)



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