Wow, I am excited about this one. 😀
On February 2, a group of wonderful musicians — namely, Cheryl Jackson, Farnsworth Curtis Reed, and Dr. Michael A. Williams — joined me at Coupe Studios to record 15+ gospel and spiritual songs from the African-American church tradition.
Some people have asked me why I wanted to do this particular set. My goal in making these Hymns for Alzheimer’s recordings is to use sacred music to kindle joyful, comforting memories for as many people with dementia as possible. I want to make it easy for activity directors and volunteers at senior residences to put together meaningful, expressive church services for their particular group, no matter what geographic or cultural background the residents have.
So, in addition to making sure I have a cross-section of songs from every denomination, I want to produce an authentic sound that people would recognize from the time they learned the songs in Sunday school or church. I hope that honoring the black worship tradition with these recordings meets that goal for African-American (and often Southern) elders.
Choices, Style, and Samples
I polled friends and ministers in black churches to get a solid list of songs that they thought elders would most recognize and enjoy, and I pulled some from my own experience. Several have become new favorites of mine. (I can’t stop singing “I am on the Battlefield.”)
Like all the other recordings, these still need to be simple enough for a sing-along, so the musicians worked with me to simplify traditional arrangements while maintaining the gospel sound. We had a blast, and I was blown away by their collective talent.
Here are a couple of rough recordings from the session. Keep in mind these are rough drafts; we’re still working on the final editing, so these are not yet ready for prime time. But I hope they’ll give you a sense of what to look forward to.
The Blood Will Never Lose its Power, by Andraé Crouch
I am on the Battlefield for My Lord, by E.V. Banks and Sylvana Bell (public domain)
Stay tuned for the final, downloadable files in a few weeks. In the meantime: Happy Black History Month!
Photo by Nycholas Benaia