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photo: © jan gruyaert -

photo: © jan gruyaert –

This past week, I came across this YouTube of Wintley Phipps at a Gaither concert.  I learned a lot of musicology from him in this clip.  Such as the scale for spirituals (5 notes) that is different from the one we are used to that has 8 notes.

The melodies of spirituals can be played on only the black notes (if played in the right key of course.)  It is a five note scale.  It comes straight from Africa and is found in other music especially seen in early American music (thanks of course, to the influx of the African incluence to our music).

A notable place where “white” spirituals are found is this well known, well loved song: Amazing Grace.  It is believed that the tune was most likely heard by John Newton before he became a believer, on the slave ships he captained.  It was similar to a common West African mourning chant.

After John Newton became a Christian and his life dramatically changed, he started writing hymns. He wrote this one…and to this tune.

This arrangement is stunning…Wintley’s story just makes it all the more meaningful.  You must take a few minutes to hear it!  I think you will be touched by it, as I was.