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AFRICAN-AMERICAN SPIRITUALS Keep Your Lamps!
Spirituals are religious folksongs, which evolved and are associated with a complex history of revivalism in America, between 1740 and the 19th century. The very first Negro spirituals were inspired by African music even if the tunes were not far from those of hymns. Some of them, which were called �shouts� were accompanied with typical dancing including hand clapping and foot tapping. As with many of the slave songs, this song's impetus came from hearing a sermon based upon the parable found in the book of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 1-13. In this passage of scripture, Jesus tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins. They had been told that the bridegroom would be coming, thus they got their Lamps, trimmed them, and set them burning and went to the appointed place. However, the bridegroom did not arrive at the appointed time and the foolish only brought enough oil for one night. They then returned to get more oil and of course the bridegroom came while they were away. Jesus then says to his disciples, you know neither the day nor the hour of my return. Be ye ready! As a response to this, one can only imagine the song stirring from the soul of one slave listener. Jesus was indeed deliverer and a hope for the slave. One can only speculate that this song was sung often, when there was a possibility of deliverance.
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Reviews of African-American Spirituals - Keep Your Lamps! - arranged for SATB, Conga Drums and String Quartet by Gerald Manning
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