Beams of Heaven: Hymns of Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933)

Article excerpt

Beams of Heaven: Hymns of Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933) edited by S T Kimbrough, Jr.; Music editor, Carlton R Young. Introduction by James Abbington. New York: General Board of Global Ministries, 2006. xii+n.p. (Ill pp.); [46 hymns]. ISBN-10: 1-933663-03-0. U.S. $9.95 (book); $12.95 (CD).

As a practicing church musician and worship planner, it is refreshing to witness the (re)discovery of jewels that contribute to the treasure chest of American hymnody by African-American composers. Beams of Heaven re-presents the forty-six published hymns of Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, one of the well-known progenitors of Black Gospel Music. Many may recognize Tindley by way of such song tides as: "We'll Understand It Better By and By," "Stand By Me," "Some Day," "The Storm is Passing Over," and of course, the courageous title song, "Beams of Heaven." The General Board of Global Ministries has made available Tindley's complete published hymn output for the first time in over sixty years.

One of the unique qualities of this collection is held in its format. The publishers provide "the complete repertory of stanzas for all hymns" that span between two prior Tindley publications, Soul Echoes (1909) and New Songs of Paradise (1941). In addition, each hymn text has been extracted from the notation and printed on an adjacent page to highlight Tindley's command of poetry. In the Introduction, S T Kimbrough, Jr. states, "one experiences a lyrical theology that holds in tension the anxieties of oppression with the vision of a better world, both her and now and beyond." Tindley's hymn texts are evidence of theology, eschatology, and sociology working in tandem. Kimbrough goes on to say, "His metaphors, similes, imagery, biblical allusions, and folk expressions are those with which African Americans may readily identify; and yet, his hymns have reached far beyond one group of people to the larger Christian community. …