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Arranged by Ian David Coleman
Series Editor: Simon Carrington
Voicing: SATB a cappella
Catalog number: AMP 1053
In this setting I have taken the traditional spiritual ‘Deep River’ and woven it into the well-known hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. The story of the text of ‘Amazing Grace’, written by John Newton (1725-1807), a former slave ship operator turned anti- slavery advocate, is well known. Given that the exact details of his life story are complicated and complex, my goal was not to use this to suggest, in some trite way, that ‘Amazing Grace’ stands as an antidote to the obvious challenges faced in today's world where race and racism are concerned. However, it is fascinating to me that over time the text and hymn tune (New Britain) for ‘Amazing Grace’ have become so deeply embedded in American culture over time that it can now be heard sung with equal passion and conviction by Americans from multiple ethnic backgrounds.
By placing these two songs next to each other I wish to raise important questions. I want us to ask if ‘grace’ is indeed enough where racial issues are concerned. I also hope to encourage us to consider deeply what that grace should look like when we discuss racism, and to ask to what extent that grace needs to be shown in equal measure on all sides of the debate in order for progress to be made? These are difficult and uncomfortable questions. If music can be a vehicle through which discussion and dialogue might begin, then perhaps there is something to be said for using it to that end and purpose.
Ian David Coleman
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