“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.
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.
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.)