It’s Black History Month! We get an extra day this year, y’all (thanks, leap year). An extra day to celebrate Black excellence both past and present, honoring the inventors, the liberators, the artists, the activists, the athletes, and the ancestors.
At Blackbelt Voices, we are big believers in acknowledging and appreciating Black history and culture all year long. (No shade to Black History Month and Dr. Carter Woodson; we still enjoy the opportunity to turn up our love of Blackness in February.)
One way to celebrate Black History Month throughout the year is through song, specifically the Black National Anthem. We even include it as a bop in the outro music of each podcast episode.
Karama Neal, Ph.D., says we should all be singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” more often, making it a regular part of worship services and other commemorations no matter the time of year. Through her educational initiative, Ife Opportunity, Karama has arranged simplified piano sheet music to make the song more accessible to church worship leaders and other pianists.
Arranging simplified versions of popular hymns came about when Karama’s daughter, Ayoka, began putting the piano lessons she has learned over the past six years into practice at church worship services.
“What we found was oftentimes the hymns in the hymnal are too complicated for her to play,” Karama said.
Karama refreshed her memory on the musical theory she learned when she played piano as a preteen — around the age her daughter is now — and used that knowledge to simplify some of the songs in the hymnal so her daughter could play them at church.
“I couldn’t necessarily play the more complicated versions of the songs myself, but I was able to use some of the nice software that’s available these days to arrange some hymns and simplify them to make them easier for my daughter to play.”
As she did this for her daughter, Karama realized others might benefit from her simplified piano sheet music as well. She set up an account on Payhip where she sells a number of arrangements, some of which include “How Great Thou Art,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
Karama said the collective singing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and the lyrics themselves make it a powerful song and one of her favorites. Through her simplified sheet music, she wants to remove barriers to people learning how to play it on the piano.
“Maybe if we could make it more straightforward and simplify it, it might make it more accessible to folks. We can play it and sing it more often and be reminded through those words of how far we’ve come, where our hope lies, and the ways in which we work together to get there.”
This post is sponsored by Ife Opportunity, a organization committed to creating solutions that expand opportunity and promote equity in education, health, and other critical areas. Ife Opportunity has held computer coding, astronomy, and other workshops for children and additional projects are planned. One such project is sheet music for budding musicians learning to play piano. Download “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,”* the Black National anthem, as simplified sheet music and save 15% off your purchase using the coupon code BLACKBELT.
*This post contains an affiliate link. You won’t pay a cent more for your purchase, but we will receive a small commission.