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M M 1670 A 43

ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by A. SIMPSON & Co., in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States

for the Southern District of New York.

AGATHYNIAN PREBB, 60 Duane Street, New York.

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The musical capacity of the negro race has been recog. nized for so many years that it is hard to explain why no systematic effort has hitherto been made to collect and preserve their melodies. More than thirty years ago those plantation songs made their appearance which were so extraordinarily popular for a while ; and if “Coal-black Rose,” “Zip Coon” and “Ole Virginny nebber tire” have been succeeded by spurious imitations, manufactured to suit the somewhat sentimental taste of our community, the fact that these were called “ negro melodies” was itself a tribute to the musical genius of the race.

The public had well-nigh forgotten these genuine slave songs, and with them the creative power from which they sprung, when a fresh interest was excited through the educational mission to the Port Royal islands, in 1861. The agents of this mission were not long in dis

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* It is not generally known that the beautiful air “Long time ago," or “Near the lake where drooped the willow," was borrowed from the negroes, by whom it was sung to words beginning, “Way down in Raccoon Hollow."

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covering the rich vein of music that existed in these halfbarbarous people, and when visitors from the North were on the islands, there was nothing that seemed better worth their while than to see a “shout” or hear the “people” sing their “sperichils." A few of these last, of special merit,* soon became established favorites among the whites, and hardly a Sunday passed at the church on St. Helena without“ Gabriel's Trumpet,” “I hear from Heaven to-day,” or “Jehovah Hallelujah.” The last time I myself heard these was at the Fourth of July celebration, at the church, in 1864. All of them were sung, and then the glorious shout, “I can't stay behind, my Lord," was struck up, and sung by the entire multitude with a zest and spirit, a swaying of the bodies and nodding of the heads and lighting of the countenances and rhythmical movement of the hands, which I think no one present will ever forget.

Attention was, I believe, first publicly directed to these songs

in a letter from Miss McKim, of Philadelphia, to Dwight's Journal of Music, Nov. 8, 1862, from which some extracts will presently be given. At about the same time, Miss McKim arranged and published two of them, “Roll, Jordan” (No. 1) and “Poor Rosy” (No. 8) -probably on all accounts the two best specimens that could be selected. Mr. H. G. Spaulding not long after gave some well-chosen specimens of the music in an article entitled “ Under the Palmetto," in the Continental

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* The first seven spirituals in this collection, which were regularly sung at is church

Monthly for August, 1863, among them, “O Lord, remember me” (No. 15), and “The Lonesome Valley” (No. 7). Many other persons interested themselves in the collection of words and tunes, and it seems time at last that the partial collections in the possession of the editors, and known by them to be in the possession of others, should not be forgotten and lost, but that these relics of a state of society which has passed away should be preserved while it is still possible.*

The greater part of the music here presented has been taken down by the editors from the lips of the colored people themselves; when we have obtained it from other sources, we have given credit in the table of contents. The largest and most accurate single collection in existence is probably that made by Mr. Charles P. Ware, chiefly at Coffin's Point, St. Helena Island. We have thought it best to give this collection in its entirety, as the basis of the present work; it includes all the hymns as far as No. 43. Those which follow, as far as No. 55, were collected by myself on the Capt. John Fripp and neighboring plantations, on the same island. In all cases we have added words from other sources and other localities, when they could be obtained, as well as varia tions of the tunes wherever they were of sufficient im portance to warrant it. Of the other hymns and songs

* Only this last spring a valuable collection of songs made at Richmond, Va., was lost in the Wagner. No copy had been made from the original manuscript so that the labor of their collection was lost. We had hoped to have the use of them in preparing the present work.

we have given the locality whenever it could be ascertained.

The difficulty experienced in attaining absolute correctness is greater than might be supposed by those who have never tried the experiment, and we are far from claiming that we have made no mistakes. I have never felt quite sure of my notation without a fresh comparison with the singing, and have then often found that I had made some errors. I feel confident, however, that there are no mistakes of importance. What may appear to some to be an incorrect rendering, is very likely to be a variation; for these variations are endless, and very entertaining and instructive.

Neither should any one be repelled by any difficulty in adapting the words to the tunes. The negroes keep exquisite time in singing, and do not suffer themselves to be daunted by any obstacle in the words. The most obstinate Scripture phrases or snatches from hymns they will force to do duty with any tune they please, and will dash heroically through a trochaic tune at the head of a column of iambs with wonderful skill. We have in all cases arranged one set of words carefully to each melody; for the rest, one must make them fit the best he can, as the negroes themselves do.

The best that we can do, however, with paper and types, or even with voices, will convey but a faint shadow of the original. The voices of the colored people have a peculiar quality that nothing can imitate; and the intonations and delicate variations of even one

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