'Gleam' production has put a venerable spiritual in my head
The experience of attending "Gleam" at Center Stage has stayed with me, despite some reservations about the play and one of the performances. As I said in my review, the work made me think of the great spiritual "This Little Light of Mine," which has been ringing through my head.
I should the say the melody that I know and love is ringing through my head. There are two musical treatments of the words. Maybe someone can fill me in on the true history of each -- they're similar, but distinct.
The best known -- judging by frequency of YouTube entries, for one thing -- is embraced by black gospel singers and white folk (and rock) singers alike.
The one that I learned is part of the Negro spiritual tradition. The first time I realized that it wasn't so widely known was when I played it on the piano at a memorial service for ...
a Baltimore Sun colleague, a beautiful and sweet copy editor named Dacia, who died at an absurdly young age.
After the service, several people asked me what that tune was, and I felt terrible that I hadn't announced it -- I had assumed everyone would know why I chose to honor the memory of Dacia, with her gently gleaming personality, by playing "This Little Light of Mine."
Anyway, I wanted to share two versions of the spiritual now, just because it's on my mind again and it has me thinking of all the wonderful people I've known, some gone, some still here, who have been such a shining presence in my life.
My favorite interpreter is Leontyne Price, whose version never failed to move me to tears when I heard her sing it as an encore at recitals. This White House performance is a good representation. I also found Paul Robeson's stately recording, so I included that, too. I hope you enjoy: