Dan Scollay’s Gospel Singing Workshop, 25-26 August 2012

Mumbulla Hall in Bega, Saturday morning. A ragtag crew of a hundred or so, mostly women but enough men to cushion our sound. Shrill sopranos, mellower altos, the velvety tenors and the gravel-toned basses. I don’t know what I am but I’m standing with the basses when we divide ourselves up, and I don’t move easily, so I give it a burl. Can’t reach some of the low notes so I shuffle towards the tenors, where I kind of stay. By the end of the weekend I suspect I may be an alto. It doesn’t matter.

Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water… There’s Dan out the front, keeping impeccable time, helping with a note, picking out the rhythm and making us feel a hundred bucks. Hum these bars, whisper the next few, belt out the last, and now all the parts are sounding like family, and Dan’s smiling and we’ve got it! Dip-dip-it-a-zumbay… We can’t help it, we’re swaying and bopping and shimmying…

I’m on my way, and I won’t turn back… the sultry solo lifts and holds us. She calls, we respond. And the band! Sunday morning and we’re singing with a band now, drums and keyboard, guitar and bass, sax, clarinet, and they switch moods from American to African and back but it’s all gospel. Chain gangs and cottonfields, consolation and sorrow and hope and surrender. Glory, glory, hallelujah, since I laid my burden down…

And now it’s Sunday afternoon and there’s an audience; they’re willing us to be good. We’re filing in, singing softly, and it seems like five minutes later we’re filing back out. More glories, more hallelujahs, and we’re meant to be finished but outside in the courtyard we just can’t stop singing.

Oh, what a sound! Thanks, Dan.

First published in The Triangle community newspaper, October 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.