This evening everyone seemed to be feeling better, so we headed out to a free concert by the Hallelujah Singers held in a small church in downtown Bluffton. I've been pretty proud of myself for finding so many wonderful free things to do during the holidays this year with the girls. The church itself was beautiful - enormous stained glass windows blazing with light. Coming upon it reminded me of a picture postcard of an old fashioned church in the snow, with the beautiful stained glass colors illuminating the night.
The church was packed, and it wasn't a large one. The singers were maybe 2-3 feet away from the pews. Mom and Olivia were able to sit toward the front; I sat a little further back with Amelia. From that vantage point, I could see Olivia literally vibrate with excitement when the music started. She seems to have a particular affinity for live music and does the same thing when she hears the praise and worship music at church. She was standing on Mom's lap, with Mom holding her up - I swear it looked like she was dancing! She was waving her arms around to the beat and bouncing up and down with a big grin on her face. She does the same thing when she is really excited. She would get a bit tired, collapse and snuggle for a bit; then pop back up again when the beat picked up. She really likes the Gullah beat the best; just like she really loved the marches the Parris Island Brass Band played.
Amelia had a bit rougher time. She is usually good at these sort of things, but this month we've been to 3 events where she lost some self control about halfway through. I think we're up just a bit too late and it's hard for her to hold it together. But all in all, I love taking them places. This in particular was something she probably won't ever get a chance to see again. They travel all over the world and the musical style and storytelling are unique to this area. The Gullah accent itself is very rhythmic - when the Gullah Geechee speak, it often sounds like they are singing when they are talking.
Here is some more about the Hallelujah Singers:
The Hallelujah SingersA vocal group from Beaufort, founded 10 years ago by Marlena Smalls, the Hallelujah Singers seek to preserve through music the Gullah heritage, rooted in West African traditions and language, and brought by the slaves to the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah language is Creole blend of West African and European dialects, developed in the isolated plantations of the coastal South. Most of the Gullah vocabulary is of English origin, but grammar and pronunciation come from a number of West African languages, such as Ewe, Madinka, Igbo, Twi and Yoruba. The slaves' knowledge of rice cultivation, a crop that had been grown in the West African region since 1500, made them desirable to the plantation owners of the South Carolina Low Country where rice had become a staple crop. The plantation owners, seeking the comforts of their city homes, often left the day-to-day operation of the plantations to the overseer or foreman, causing these isolated plantations to be much less influenced by Euro-American culture and allowing them to retain their "African-ness.
Smalls developed and refined a series of concerts to define the Gullah culture and the "Sea Island sound." Her goal was to preserve the melodies and storytelling technique of the South Carolina Sea Islands. Interwoven with music and narration, the singers present miniature dramatizations of some of the unique personages, rituals, and ceremonies that played an important part in shaping the Gullah culture. Among the Hallelujah Singer's repetoire are traditional plantation songs dating back to the 1600s. The group consists of five singers and two musicians, playing strings and conga drums. They have recorded three CDs. The first, "Gullah - Songs of Hope, Faith and Freedom," produced in 1997, features plantation melodies and spiritual songs. In 1998, "Joy - A Gullah Christmas" was released, and finally, in 1999, the latest CD "Gullah - Carry Me Home" was produced; it is the first to be nationally distributed. Performing at youth recreation, community, and senior citizens centers around the country, participating in various music festivals, and providing educational outreach for students in South Carolina and Georgia, the group has earned a number of awards, including the South Carolina Folk Heritage Advocacy Award, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Community Service Award, and the South Carolina Humanitarian Award. The Hallelujah Singers have performed in concert worldwide, and have appeared in television documentaries and the motion picture Forrest Gump. They have also performed for the United States Congress, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and South Carolina legislators. In the fall of 2000, the group will give a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.