Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sing De Bible - Singing the bible Jamaican style

Sing De Bible in Church to Jamaican Rhythms  

By Gwyneth Harold

Musical composer, Joy Simons Brown, was sitting in Church one Sunday and noted for the first time that the birth dates of the songwriters in the hymn book were from the 18th and 19th century. That was enough to set her on her newest musical project, a Jamaican musical score of bible verses for congregations to sing in Church. She went further. The score was recorded and both book and manuscript for 13 songs are called Sing de Bible. Verses were selected from the New Revised Standard Version and the King James bibles.
Click photo for video clip 

Simons Brown also formed the choral group CANTANDO, 12 singers invited from other singing groups including Sound of Joy vocalists, the former Mutual Life and Scotia Bank chorales, the Guardian Life Singers and Bethel Baptist church choirs. They performed all vocals on the album.

At the launch on April 9 at her Church, Bethel Baptist in Half-Way-Tree, Simons Brown expressed her surprise at the lack of currency in manuscripts for musicians to play for congregations: "My intention was to write a number of songs that had the lyrics from the Bible. I looked at the some of the words and got some rhythms from the words and then composed all of these songs....The intention is to add to the repertoire that we already have. For the last century or so people have been making songs for Church but they are not written anywhere and a lot of them are not recorded. I have done the whole thing; harmonized them, wrote them down and, thanks to CANTANDO, recorded them. This is to hope others will do the same."

Former Musical Director and soprano of the University Singers, Lilieth Nelson, officially launched the album and book giving an overview of the 13 selections. Nelson noted that the themes of the songs included assurance, love, reflection and recognition of God.  She bought her cultural forte forward to note that Sing de Bible sounded very close to Single Bible, the aloe vera plant noted for semper virens - living always.
She urged the group to perform at Churches as their performance of the songs in Sing de Bible "is an inspiration beyond measure".

She highlighted the (Nyabingi) arrangement of the funde and repeater drums in Psalm 1 (Blessed is the Man). The prophesy of the coming of Christ noted in Isaiah 9 (For Unto Us), is true to the reggae genre. The traditional Jamaican call and response working song is the foundation for John 14 (I am the Way) Roger Shaw sings lead. Popular rhythms rock steady and ska lift verses from Matthew 7 (Ask - and it shall be given) and Romans 8 (I am Sure)  Ska is delivered in Matthew 5 (You Are The Salt).

Deacon and longstanding choir member at Bethel Baptist, Maurice Anderson, leads the soulful My Command from Deuteronomy 6, the only selection from the Pentateuch. The other solo from the Old Testament was Annette Tennant singing Psalm 91 (The Secret Place). Keisha Miles delivered the solo performance on the Latin American/ dancehall-inspired, Love Chant, from Corinthians 13 (Love is).

CANTANDO is: Jennifer Anderson, Maurice Anderson; Trevor Dixon; Tracy Graham; Keisha Miles; Trena Morris; Ricardo Simpson; Roger Shaw; Aisha Smith; Kerry-Ann Suckrajh; Annette Tennant; Ruth Watt.

Musicians on Sing de Bible include: keyboard, Andrew Young and Joy Simons Brown; drums, Cliff Bond; percussion, Chris Downer; bass guitar, Delroy "Pele" Hamilton.

As a tribute to hymns that have remained Church favourites, saxophonist, Warren Reid, who does not appear on the album, interpreted Praise To The Lord, The Almighty to Jamaican rhythms. That song is an interpretation of Psalm 106 by German lyricist, Joachim Neander, and first published in 1665 - the English version in popular use was translated nearly 200 years later.

A contribution from the sale of the album will go towards Operation Haiti.