IF YOU GO
* What: "God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse."
* When: 6-8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9.
* Where: Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd.
* Admission: $10.
* Phone: 423-266-8658.
* Website: www.bessiesmithcc.org.
Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband -- weep no more;
Grief-stricken son -- weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter -- weep no more;
She's only just gone home.
-- Excerpt from "Go Down Death: A Funeral Sermon"
from James Weldon Johnson's "God's Trombones:
Seven Negro Sermons in Verse."
Chattanooga performance troupe The Creative Underground will present James Weldon Johnson's "God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse" on Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
The work is taken from Weldon's 1927 book of poems patterned after traditional African-American religious oratory.
Johnson (1871-1938), the first black professor at New York University, observed an absence of attention in folklore studies to what he called a "folk sermon." He described them this way, using specific examples from memory:
"I remember hearing in my boyhood sermons that were current, sermons that passed with only slight modifications from preacher to preacher and from locality to locality. Such sermons were: 'The Valley of Dry Bones,' which was based on the vision of the prophet in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel; the 'Train Sermon,' in which both God and the devil were pictured as running trains, one loaded with saints, that pulled up in heaven, and the other with sinners, that dumped its load in hell; the 'Heavenly March,' which gave in detail the journey of the faithful from Earth, on up through the pearly gates to the great white throne. Then there was a stereotyped sermon, which had no definite subject and which was quite generally preached; it began with the Creation, went on to the fall of man, rambled through the trials and tribulations of the Hebrew children, came down to the redemption by Christ and ended with the Judgment Day and a warning and an exhortation to sinners."
The "trombone" in the title refers to the brass instrument's resemblance to the range and sound of the human voice and the emotion and amplitude both can convey.