Thursday, the Library of Congress launched a new web site devoted to the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Like Sweet Chariot: The Story of the Spirituals, it’s a multimedia website and history project.
The audio collection and database is in the Guiness Book of World’s Records as the largest collection of recordings of a single musical work. It's comprised of 3,049 recordings of the hymn and was donated to the Library of Congress by collectors Allan Chasanoff and Ramon Elozua. The site includes a searchable database of collection materials.
Other resources include a timeline outlining the history of the hymn (written in 1779), an article tracing the spread of the hymn throughout England and the U.S., and discussion of its role in shape-note singing. These resources draw heavily from the work of music journalist Steve Turner.
So far, I’ve only spent a few minutes clicking around, but I’m really impressed by its breath and magnitude. It’s a site worth savoring during an afternoon at the coffee shop, or enjoying in small sections. I took a minute to skim some of the articles and listen to a version of this English hymn recorded in 1950 by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Lottie Henry. I’ll definitely be back for more.
(Hat tip: Friends of the Negro Spiritual)