Bermudian Joy T Barnum releases new album

Singer Joy T Barnum has a new album, ‘Negroes Spiritual'. She spoke with Lifestyle reporter Rene Hill about its making and the impetus behind her first collection of gospel songs — her mother.

  • Joy T Barnum 2010 Tour

  • Joy T. Barnum singing Negro Spirituals in a fundraising concert at the Unfinished Church in St. George's.

    Joy T. Barnum singing Negro Spirituals in a fundraising concert at the Unfinished Church in St. George's.

RG: When did you start working on this album?

JTB: I started working on it during October 2009. I had an idea of what I wanted to record and I knew who I wanted to work with. The pianist only known as MCP and I got together and we recorded it over two Sundays, as he knew all the music.

RG: Of all the genres of gospel music why did you decide upon Negro spirituals?

JTB: I didn't really grow up with gospel music, but when I went to Oakwood College, I got to experience spirituals, hymns and classical.

Two years ago when I endeavoured to do the vinyl, DVD and CD, my mom said, ‘here's the deal, I will pay for this and you have to pay me back and then you have to do a spiritual album and I will pay for it and you won't have to pay me back'.

So it has taken two years and I finally paid my mom back with the sales from the Heather Nova European Tour 2010. Gospel is not my mother tongue, so I was thinking, what in the world can I do. I thought of what makes me happy, what moves me, what speaks to me and spirituals speak to me.

RG: The public might ask, how do you go from singing rock to Negro spirituals?

JTB: It's not that difficult. Last night we were discussing Bob Marley and why he is classic and timeless and everyone was like, because he is roots, but he is also rock. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock is my experience and anything with guitar is my experience. Now in saying that I am of both African and Native American descent, so if you hear me coming off with an album of woodwind flute don't be surprised.

RG: Tell me about the spirituals on this album and why you chose them?

JTB: ‘Beams of Heaven' was my great grandmother's favourite song and she asked me to sing it for her before she died. ‘Motherless Child' is also timeless. A guy named Winston invited my sister and I to the New Testament Church of God where he played the piano and this lady sang ‘Precious Lord' and I had never heard anyone sing like that before.

Her rendition is ingrained on my memory. I remember how this lady sang this song, what I felt when she sang it and I wanted to do it. I like the rendition we did of ‘Wade in the Water'...I like jazz music as well so we did this swing upbeat jazz piece.

And ‘Calvary', I got to hear this true life alto soprano who sang it from the gut. So I am listening to her take her chest voice and slide it all around the place, and I didn't even have a clue how to begin to do that.

I finally got the chance to do it now that I know who I am, what my voice is, what I can do, and that there is not much I'm not willing to try with my voice. So it was just about having that feeling and I wanted to share it with everybody.

RG: How does it make you feel to sing the songs of your ancestors, who were long-suffering, but still had hope?

JTB: That's the thing right there, long-suffering and always had hope. It always amazes me when people refer to Negro spirituals like they were happy, because it has God in it. No it had to be full of hope and the only hope they were given was this God.

With ‘Wade in the Water' they are not talking about Moses... but they were trying to get to the happy ending. So I am sort of, I guess, melodramatic about it when I am singing it, as it makes me feel sad and also hopeful, because I do see how we have progressed.

I think it is a natural progression when you are learning about your history and studying to internalise what was going on when those songs were being sung and written and I sort of feel that way when I am singing them.

‘Negroes Spiritual' is $20 and is available at the Adventist Book Centre, Music Box and Rock Island Coffee.

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Published Jan 12, 2011 at 8:33 am (Updated Jan 12, 2011 at 8:31 am)

Bermudian Joy T Barnum releases new album

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