Classical Music

Classical Classroom, Ep. 161: Sweet Secret Sacred Songs, With Jason Oby

Learn about the deceptively simple spiritual, its ingenious codes and uses, and its art.


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
Houston Ebony Opera Guild artistic director Jason Oby.

All of us have heard spirituals before – those sometimes jubilant, sometimes sorrowful songs created by African American slaves. But have you really heard them? As it turns out, these deceptively simple songs sometimes carried hidden messages, signals, and directions. Dr. Jason Oby, artistic director of the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, teaches all about this ingenious and soulful musical invention that was born out of oppression and necessity. He also talks about the spiritual’s connection to classical music, and the music of Roland Carter, who, among many things, arranges spirituals.

Music in this episode:

  • “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” feat. Jason Oby and Moses Hogan (piano)
  • “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” feat. Jessye Norman
  • “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” arranged by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, feat. Roland Carter
  • “Hold Fast to Dreams,” by Roland Carter

Audio production by Todd “Telekinesis” Hulslander with levitation from Dacia Clay and assistance from Mark DiClaudio.

To learn more about the Houston Ebony Opera Guild and their performances – including their upcoming Annual African American Music Gala celebrating the work (and birthday!) of Maestro Roland Carter – check out their website.