world renowned opera singer Meashea Brueggergosman know that when she decided
to record her first recording of spirituals that it would lead to a transformative
spiritual and mystical journey that would alter her life permanently.
journey has been chronicled in a new documentary for the Canadian cable network
Vision TV, “Songs of Freedom”, by filmmaker Barbara Willis Sweete. The program
already airing this month on the cable network as a four part, half hour series and later in a
90 minute feature length version in May..
says that there is a reason why she wanted to explore spirituals from working exclusively
in the opera and classical music world:
“My exploration of African-American
spirituals is a way for me to challenge my classically trained mind. It is
helping me to become a better musician. But there is another reason why
spirituals are so important to me. I wanted to explore this repertoire because
it’s dear to my heart. These spirituals are close to my Christian faith. They
are also a very important part of my family’s history. It is the music of my
people. My ancestors were stolen from Africa and sold into slavery in the
United States before finding freedom in Nova Scotia”.
spirituals were born out of a time when my people were oppressed and needed to
find a way not only to communicate with each other, but also to express
themselves. They created a powerful snapshot of their lives that still
resonates with people today. The reason the songs survived so long is because
of their immediacy. They have the universality of a mournful yet hopeful
existence. They have strength”.
In the film,
when she and her brother had their DNA tested, they discovered that they were
descendant from the Bassa tribe in Cameroon. In fact there’s a scene in the film
where she finds a name of an ancestor listed in the historical legacy The Book of Negroes, who were African Americans
who escaped to the British during the American Revolutionary War became the
first settlement of Black Nova Scotians and Black Canadians.
As she says “To
embark on a journey that seeks to reintegrate me into a culture that my
ancestors were essentially stolen from through slavery in the 1700s is an
experience that is quite surreal. Being from Cameroon is, in some ways, both
amazing and terrifying…something incredible is going to happen; I’m not sure
what it is or if I’m going to be standing at the end, but it will be worth it”.
To check out the website for the program go HERE and below is the trailer