Page 16 - Voice for Life Songbook 1
P. 16

                                1. Amen, say Amen
This call and response song by Ken Burton is in a jazz/blues style and is loosely based on the twelve-bar blues chord pattern. It is an action song which allows singers to engage the body as well as the voice and its limited vocal range makes it an ideal warm-up song. Its structure allows different members of the group to take it in turns to be the leader and can also be used as a basis for improvisation.
Teaching the song
This song is catchy and memorable and is best learnt without reading from the score.You can introduce actions from the start (e.g. clap/stamp): you should make them rhythmical but remember that they don’t have to copy the rhythm of the melody.
Teach the first four bars by singing each phrase of the melody and asking your singers to sing it back to you as an echo. In the first bar on the word ‘hands’ slide up the semitone from the grace note to the harmony note, in keeping with the musical style.Teach the last three bars separately as the call and response pattern changes here. Make sure that everyone can hear the difference between the A flats and A naturals so that they are in tune. Also, make sure the response stays in time – if your singers wait for the leader to finish singing before taking a breath it is liable to become late.
Go through the whole song several times until it is secure. Introduce a new action each time (e.g. stamp your feet, wave your hands, slap your knees, praise the Lord): encourage singers to use their imagination here.
Be creative
Once the song is well-known ask other choir members take it in turns to be the leader. If you sing it standing in a circle the role of the leader can pass all the way round so that no one misses out. As they become more confident they may want to improvise their own melodies: encourage them to experiment and take risks and praise them for doing so. Make sure that the choir always copies them exactly: it is excellent ear training!
Musical skills and understanding
‘Call and response’ is a pattern of alternation between the voice of an individual and the voice of the congregation, as occurs in this song. It allows individual sorrows, hopes, and joys to be shared by the community.
One of the characteristics of this style of music is the inclusion of ‘blue notes’.These are chromatic notes that are foreign to the key the piece is in. Ask the singers to try to identify the key (F major); then find the blue notes (e.g. G sharp in bar 1 and A flat in bar 3 of the voice part – some may be able to identify that these are the same note on the piano even though they have different names).
Encourage singers to listen to the piano part, which contains some bluesy chords. Explain that the quaver movement in the left hand of the piano part is known as a walking bass line – it was popular with Bach as well as jazz musicians!
Track 1

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