Chattanooga Now 'God's Trombones' celebrates Johnson

Chattanooga Now 'God's Trombones' celebrates Johnson

February 14th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattanooga Now - Art

Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

Bessie Smith Cultural Center.


What: "God's Trombones"

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd.

Admission: $10 adults, $8 children 10-under/groups

Phone: 266-8658 or 402-0452


Shane Morrow says its important for today's youth to embrace the past to have what they need for the struggle ahead.

He hopes "God's Trombones," a dramatic musical performance of a black literary classic of the same name by James Weldon Johnson, might provide that outlet. The production, a collaboration of The Creative Underground and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the center.

It was previously presented here in 2010 in celebration of Johnson's life by the same two organizations and the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song.

Morrow, who directs the presentation, says the passages/poems will be given by Anthony O. Sammons, pastor Sheryl Randolph, pastor Kevin Smith, Yolanda Mitchell, Lawrence Sneed, pastor Ernest Tanner, pastor Jeffrey Wilson and Sam Terry.

Johnson, the director said, patterned the works after traditional black religious oratory. He felt it was important to create this style because he observed an absence of attention in folklore studies to what he called a "folk sermon." Johnson then described its nature and specific examples from his memory as a child offering tribute to, in his words, "the old-time Negro preacher," he said.

Each passage/poem will be followed by a gospel song that complements the particular "folk sermon."

"It has also been my belief," said Morrow, "that 'God's Trombones' is the perfect nexus for several disciplines across the humanities: poetry, oral traditions, history, religion, music and visual art."

Johnson was the first secretary general of the NAACP and instrumental in the Harlem Renaissance. According to Morrow, Johnson said his "trombone" is the preacher's distinctive oratory and eloquent skills that move a congregation to a greater understanding of the power of faith.

"In this production," said Morrow, "it is my wish that our youth are encouraged to savor the past and the African-American spirit that drew on faith and community for strength amid difficult times. ... I believe that all who attend this performance will leave uplifted and with their souls refreshed."

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