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"Together Let Us Sweetly Live" offers a rare look at the unique grassroots African American religious institutions called the Singing and Praying Bands. This folksong and ring shout tradition began in Chesapeake Bay country in the early nineteenth century, with a fusion of Methodist prayer meeting worship and African religious, danced song traditions. Although scholars have assumed ring shouts died out long ago, Jonathan C. David shows otherwise, ushering us inside tidewater communities of Maryland and Delaware where they continue to thrive. A traditional band service represents a cultural commitment to mutual aid, called "help", operating as a system of social reciprocity, as a performance aesthetic, and as the foundation of community spirituality. The book's nine chapters tell the story of the Singing and Praying Bands at these services through oral histories, each told by a different member of a group. Seventy-eight photographs along with various song notations bring the spirit of the culture to life. The author's introduction provides the historical and ethnographic context needed to understand the bands and their tradition. An accompanying CD of original field recordings provides an opportunity to hear the service as if you were there.
University of Illinois Press
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