Raise Hymn, Praise Shout (2014)
for solo contrabass & string orchestra
"The best part of the evening arrived in the middle, when the hand clapping, foot stomping hymn, Raise Hymn, Praise Shout by John B Hedges, started.”
Amy Baxter, Splash Magazines
Raise Hymn, Praise Shout was commissioned by The Sphinx Organization to be performed by the Sphinx Virtuosi and Sphinx 2014 1st place laureate Xavier Foley as soloist. The intention was to expand the second movement of my concerto Prayers of Rain & Wind written for and inspired by bassist Joseph Conyers (a Sphinx alumnus himself.) That movement attempted to translate the lyrical, improvised lining out of a hymn tune in the African American church tradition to the orchestral concert stage in an attempt to raise awareness of this fascinating yet endangered musical form. This newly composed work goes further into that original idea of bass soloist as preacher and is conceived in three sections played without pause, all of which explore music forms from the African American church music tradition.
The first section, Raising the Hymn, (c.3’) is a more direct reimagining of a classic long meter hymn being lined out (Specifically in this case, the hymn ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’.) The solo bass metaphorically ‘lines out’ the opening hymn text and then proceeds to raise the hymn by leading the ‘congregation’ (string orchestra) in song. They in turn, freely follow his lead, improvising around the line as the spirit moves them. The second section, Prayer (c.4’), is the material taken from the original concerto; the bass soloist leading their congregation in a more tender, expression of a hymn tune building to a prayer spoken over the supportive, improvisatory humming of the ensemble. This transitions into the final section which begins with a call and response between the preacher and musicians/congregation. As the soloists energy of the room increases the music builds into an explosive Praise Break (c.3’) of shouting music, all musicians exclaiming their joy through rhythm, dance and song.
For a clip of the third movement of this piece, visit my media page here.
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