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Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham (Tyro, 9/59)
Grades 7-9; 10-12; C-U

Click here for recording
Recorded: September 23, 1959, in Tyro, MS
Performers: Velma Lucas and the Independence Church Congregation

Activity 1: Lining Out a Song (Grades 7-9; 10-12; C-U)

1. Ss listen with the following question:

Q: What are the sounds on the recording
A: Singing, claps

2. Listen again, asking this question:
Q: How do the singers know what words to sing?
A: Explain “lining out.” Lining out often occurs in church settings when hymnals are not present. In this style, a song leader sings the first line of the song alone, a practice which informs the congregation which verse is to be sung. The rest of the singers then join the singing.

3. Brainstorm answers to the following question:
Q: Why would groups use this type of singing?
Possible answers: lack of hymnals; lack of literacy skills

4. Ss listen, raising a hand when the leader is lining out.

5. Ss listen for the clapping pattern.

Q: Can you identify the clapping pattern?
A: It isn't consistent. The clapping begins on beats one and three, then moves to the two and four (with fewer people).
a. Listen again, adding a pattern, either stomp-clap-stomp-clap or another pattern that students create.

6. Ss sing along with the recording (softly), listening for the words as the leader (Velma Lucas) lines out each sung portion.

7. Ss listen to the recording (without singing), providing suggestions for how to sing to sound more like the performers.

8. Ss sing with the recording.

9. Ss sing without the recording, with the teacher lining out.

10. Ss listen to the recording again, to check issues of performance practice, and to note when the lining out occurs.

11. Repeat (7), with individual students volunteering to line out.

12. Tell the students that the order of the verses is not always pre-ordained, and may be made up on the spot by the leader. As a class, brainstorm other (3-5) verses to sing about. Individual students (or the teacher) lead the lining out.

Activity 2: Comparing Different Versions of a Song (Grades 7-9; 10-12)

(Note: This activity asks the students to watch a clip of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, who have performed a version of this piece. An internet search using the terms “Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Rocka My Soul video” will turn up a number of clips.)

1. Listen with the following question:

Q: What are the sounds on the recording
A: Singing, claps

2. Listen again, asking this question:
Q: How do the singers know what words to sing?
A: Explain “lining out.” Lining out often occurs in church settings when hymnals are not present. In this style, a song leader sings the first line of the song alone, a practice which informs the congregation which verse is to be sung. The rest of the singers then join the singing.

3. Brainstorm answers to the following question:
Q: Why would groups use this type of singing?
Possible answers: lack of hymnals; lack of literacy skills

4. Ss listen, raising a hand when the leader is lining out.

5. Inform the students that this spiritual has different versions. Play the recording from the video, without watching the video aspect of the recording. Compare the following aspects of the two recordings. How is the second recording different in terms of:
Q: Types of instrumentation?
A: Drums, piano
Q: Types of voices?
A: Men and women
Q: Tempo (i.e. how fast or slow the song is)
A: Faster
Q: Style of voices and singing?
A: (answers may vary): More classically trained, more annunciation of vowels, more “excitement” on part of the singers
Q: Overall feel of recording?
A: (answers will vary) More professional, happier-sounding, etc.

6. Show the students the Alvin Ailey video that corresponds with the song. Explain that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a dance company that is comprised by African Americans.
Q: How does watching a dance performance change your experience of the piece?

Lesson plan by Christopher Roberts

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