Thursday, December 3, 2009

African-American Advent: We Are Going to See the King!

I have been singing "Soon and Very Soon" since Monday Evening.  I serve an African-American parish.  The mother of one of our members passed and I went to the visitation on Monday Evening.

The body was in view so people could pay their respects, but no family members were present (this is not unusual).  A mother and daughter went in ahead of me and left promptly.  It was me, the deceased, and that Hammond electric organ (home edition) over in the corner.  I asked the funeral director if it worked and if he could help me turn it on.  This is a two-switch process and takes a few minutes before the organ is warmed up.

I played "Amazing Grace," "Precious Lord Take My Hand" and "Soon and Very Soon."  I spent around 5 minutes on each tune there in the chapel, and only a worker from the funeral home came by to check in.

A unique feature in an African-American "home-going" (the term can be used instead of "funeral") is something called "the Reviewal."  Towards the end of the service, the casket is open and people come forward to view the deceased one last time and greet the grieving family.  Oftentimes "Soon and Very Soon" is sung during the Reviewal.

The core stanzas of the song are so well known, one would think they dated back further than 1976.

Soon and very soon
we are going to see the King...

No more crying there...

No more dying there...

Soon and very soon...

The core verses are simple, repetitive, and easy to teach young children.  The song appears in the CPH children's hymnal, "All God's People Sing."  The core verses reflect our longing for the return of the Messiah.

There is a lesser-known bridge between Stanzas 3 and 4.  You can hear it on the video below.  The recording is in glorious 70's vinyl, crackling and all.  I call it the "long-play version on an LP."

And in another nod to the 70's, to the African-American home-going tradition, and to glorious, crackling recordings on vinyl, here's "Goin' Up Yonder."  Earline is now up a-yonder with her Lord.  I can't wait to meet her there.

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