“We’re not performers, we are evangelists,” is how the Rev. Jerry Colbert introduces the Singing and Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware, though there is of course always an element of the former in any incarnation of the latter. As traced in Jonathan David’s book Together Let Us Sweetly Live, the tradition represented by the Singing and Praying Bands was thriving by the 1850s, when it was practiced in secret outdoor meetings by African slaves; it later moved to private homes and finally to Methodist prayer meetings, where it largely remained – and gradually faded – until the Singing and Praying Bands brought it to concert stages. The group will perform (or evangelize) at Calvary United Methodist Church on Saturday afternoon, presented by Crossroads Music.
The oldest surviving tradition of African-American sacred music, the Band combine spirituals and the West African ring shout into a moving group a cappella call and response that is unique to the Delaware and Chesapeake Bay regions. The Bands comprise the entirety of the surviving practitioners, who once numbered into the thousands. They perform clad entirely in white, a soulfully singing, shouting, clapping, stomping group that form into a circle to amass praise in song. For more about this concert, visit the Calvary United Methodist Church’s website here.