Page 34 - Voice for Life Songbook 1
P. 34

                                9. Freedom train
The African-American slaves were not allowed to practise traditional African religions and, over time, they adopted Christianity. On the whole, slaves were prevented from forming their own congregations for fear that they would rebel against their owners if allowed to meet on their own. Nonetheless, some slaves organized secret meetings, often at night, to worship together. It was at these meetings that preach- ers developed songs which became known as ‘spirituals’.These songs drew both on African performance traditions and on hymns from the white churches.
Many spirituals, including this song, focus on the theme of freedom. It is an idea that has a double meaning. Not only do the worshippers sing of their journey toward spiritual freedom through faith, but the songs also express their hope for freedom from slavery.
Teaching the song
You can teach this song in a call and response pattern, two bars at a time.The words in the first four bars are a bit of a tongue-twister at speed and it may help to practise by saying them in rhythm a few times before you sing them. At a fast tempo singers should aim to be able to sing the first four bars in one breath.
To avoid singers accidentally singing in the rests in bars 5 and 7 you could ask them to nod or sniff at those moments – but don’t let it become a habit otherwise it may occur in performance!
The last two bars have the trickiest rhythm.You need to make sure that this is accurate before you at- tempt singing the song as a round.
Younger singers will enjoy singing the ‘Woo, woo’ train noises.Ask them to imitate the sound of a train’s whistle: they need to avoid tightening their throats and engage their support mechanism to produce a resonant sound.You can also use this type of sound in a warm-up to help develop the head voice.
Be creative
You can sing this as a round in two or four parts, accompanied by the piano or a cappella.You may also like to include the suggested vocal percussion parts or make up your own to start and end the song, to give the impression that a train is leaving the station and then arriving at its destination.Ask your singers for their ideas on how to perform the piece.
Musical skills and understanding
Can your singers identify the different note durations used in this piece? (It includes semiquavers, quavers, crotchets and minims, as well as crotchet and minim rests).Which is the shortest and which is the longest?
Can anyone identify the symbol over the last note of the vocal percussion part? And what does the dynamic marking below mean?
Ask your singers whether they notice anything about the pattern of notes that they sing in the first three bars of this song. (It outlines an F major chord, the key of the piece.)
Track 9

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