- Faith & Family
On the evening of April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave an eerily prophetic speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” that foretold his death. As he came to the climax, he repeated the words from one of our nation’s most well-known and beloved patriotic songs, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
King said, “I may not get there with you [the Promised Land] but we as a people will get there . . . Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Those inspiring words penned by Julia Ward Howe in 1861, linking the judgment of the wicked at the end of time as described in Revelation from the New Testament with the Civil War, will be sung again on Monday, Jan. 21 but in a much different context. Its singing will be significant for two reasons: it is the day we honor King’s legacy during our national observance of his birth; and it is the day that Barack Obama will be inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States.
Singing a new rendition of The Battle Hymn at the 57th Inauguration will be The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – a 300-strong choir of mostly untrained
voices that is a blend of ethnic and economic backgrounds. The Choir’s members include doctors, lawyers, ex-addicts, former homeless people and everything in between. The highly-anticipated new version was arranged by the choir’s founder, Carol Cymbala, who started the choir in the mid 1970s with just nine voices, and its assistant music director, Jason Michael Webb.
“The choir is very excited and so are both Carol and I because this is a huge platform – the world will be watching us and to sing ‘Glory Hallelujah’ from that stage will be very special and a true honor,” Webb said. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a patriotic song but it’s also a national anthem for Christians. I think that’s why it was chosen for the inauguration. In the arrangement we’ve created there are many scenes – kind of like watching a movie. The colors change as we move around the world before ending in our nation’s Capitol.”
Most of the choir’s 300 members will be part of a bus caravan. According to Webb, the trip will be a rarity as they don’t often travel with their full membership.
“Our choir is reflective of the Kingdom of God because it’s so eclectic, there are many races, different ages and a variety of economic backgrounds,” he said. “If you love God, then you’re part of His family and our music reflects that. Our music has a thread from all of the cultures represented in our group. Our music heals and speaks to people because we are sharing the love of Jesus. The world can be so ugly and dark because people don’t realize that there is love in the world – the love of Jesus Christ. That’s why we see this opportunity to sing as such an awesome responsibility. We are representing Jesus on a global stage and sharing the love of God.”
The Battle Hymn of the Republic, led by mezzo soprano Alicia Olatuja, will be bundled with another new anthem, “Let Your Kingdom Come,” and released on iTunes on Jan. 15th. Both songs will be part of the Choir’s 28th recording that will be released in the spring.
By D. Kevin McNeir