Featuring the Music of Rachel Beatty Kahl
Amazing Grace – Use Only The Black Keys

By April Lorier

Amazing Grace is the best-known hymn of all times. And now it is making a huge comeback in popularity on YouTube, thanks to Wintley Phipps who is one of my favorite gospel singers. I have owned his cassettes and CDs for more than twenty-five years. He is also the President of The U.S. Dream Academy, an organization for children of prisoners.

He makes a statement that most Negro Spirituals were written on the black keys of the piano, and then he proves it. He plays “Every time I feel the Spirit”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, and then “Amazing Grace”, a so-called “white spiritual.” The white spirituals were written by white composers who used only the black keys.

Because I am a music teacher, I know those five keys (notes) are called the pentatonic scale, but in early America were referred to as the “slave scale”. They build the power and pathos of the Negro Spirituals with their unique West African Sorrow Chant sound.

The words to Amazing Grace were written by John Newton, a former Captain of a Slave Ship. After Newton came to salvation through Jesus Christ, he heard a melody coming from the belly of the ship, and it is believed it was to that sorrowful melody that he wrote the words and named it Amazing Grace. Go to the Copyright Office and you will see “Words, John Newton. Music, Unknown.”

Wintley says he believes God planned it to be written that way to remind us that we are all humans in common, no matter what race, creed, or color we happen to be. We are all connected by God’s Amazing Grace.

In his deep, passionate voice, Wintley then begins – without words – to sing Amazing Grace in the way he imagines John Newton first heard it coming up out of the belly of the ship. His pathos is overwhelming, and his natural singing talent puts it over the top. If you have not watched the video you are depriving yourself of an encouraging inspiration that transcends words. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMF_24cQqT0]Amazing Grace, Wintley Phipps

To date, 2.5 million people have watched the video, and most of them may never have realized how powerful this song, played only on the black keys of the piano truly is.

In case you want to sing along, or you have never heard all of the verses, here they are.

Amazing Grace
Words by John Newton 1779

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

May God bless you as you listen to Wintley Phipps, a beautiful African-American singer, singing only the black notes.

(c)2008 [http://godspirit.blogspot.com/]April Lorier

April Lorier is an award-winning poet, writer, Author, Christian Speaker, Columnist, and former music teacher.

As a pastor’s daughter and a survivor of severe child abuse, April Lorier has an intimate knowledge of child abuse in and out of the church. She founded COPE, Inc, for the retraining of abusive parents. She successfully fought for the passage of The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), signed by Ronald Reagan.

Her autobiography, “GOD’S BATTERED CHILD: Journey from Abuse to Leader” (2007) is available at Amazon, B & Nobles, Target and at http://aprillorier.blogspot.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=April_Lorier http://EzineArticles.com/?Amazing-Grace—Use-Only-The-Black-Keys&id=1006282

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5 Comments for 'Amazing Grace – Use Only The Black Keys'

    Fred Black
    August 26, 2008 | 12:01 am

    I’ve seen this on YouTube so many times, and I’ve watched so many people take it as “Gospel”, that I felt moved to respond.

    Whitley Phipps’ account is an interesting and somewhat inspirational point of view on the origin of Amazing Grace. However, by all other accounts, his is not an accurate one.

    It’s true that the author of “Amazing Grace”, John Newton, was a slave trader, and those experiences likely influenced “Amazing Grace”. Accounts indicate that years after his slave trading days, Newton became a minister, and that “Amazing Grace” was originally penned by Newton as a poem to be used as part of one of his sermons. There was apparently no music put to it by Newton. Later, others put the words to various musical backgrounds. There was a tune called “New Britain,” which first appeared in print in 1829, long after Newton died. Waukepedia reports the following on “New Britain”:

    “The melody is believed to be Scottish or Irish in origin; it is pentatonic and suggests a bagpipe tune; the hymn (Amazing Grace) is frequently performed on bagpipes and has become associated with that instrument. This tune seems to have been firmly established as the ‘standard’ for this hymn (Amazing Grace) after an arrangement of it appeared in a series of popular hymnbooks in the early twentieth century.”

    I enjoy Whitley Phipps’s beautiful voice. I especially love his organization that supports children of prisoners. And I’m overjoyed at his exibition of Christianity. But his interpretation of the origin of Amazing Grace doesn’t appear to be true, as I’ve seen only evidence to the contrary. Makes for good “YouTube”, though.

    I agree with Mr. Phipps saying that God wants to … “remind us that we are all humans in common, no matter what race, creed, or color we happen to be. We are all connected by God’s Amazing Grace.” That’s why I can’t help but wonder why it is important that any beautiful Christian hymn should be associated with any particular group or groups of people. They’re simply blessings from God to all of us.

    November 28, 2010 | 3:31 pm

    It’s great to see such an amazing song make a comeback. It’s one of my favorite songs to play on the piano.

    Chad Thorne
    July 1, 2012 | 12:42 am

    The truth is that many folk musics throughout the world use pentatonic scales, Scottish, African, etc. Further, as a Pentecostal Christian I have noted that in a church service where folks are “singing in the Spirit,” i.e. praising God in spontaneous melody, everybody seems to gravitate pretty quickly to a pentatonic scale. I think that there’s something intrinsic within us that responds to the pentatonic scale. (I’m a musician, too.)

    Judith Hetherington
    September 12, 2012 | 12:05 am

    In response to Fred Black’s comment about the author of the song, John Newton, being a slave trader: This is correct, and it has been largely speculated that after his conversion to Christianity and his remorse, Amazing Grace was written. Another largely speculated theory is that precisely because of his time spent onboard the ships, listening to the slaves he was transporting, singing their spirituals (always in the pentatonic scale) the pentatonic scale was deeply embedded in his heart and soul when he wrote the song. Perhaps in his own way, speaking to the hearts of those he had wronged; as the song was being penned. I like to think that this was the case. God Bless!

    Norm Sahm
    April 2, 2013 | 1:51 pm

    In response to Judith’s comment that “. . . the pentatonic scale was deeply embedded in his heart and soul when he wrote the song.”

    The problem is that John Newton did NOT write the music – just the text. As previously pointed out by Fred Black, Newton used the text as a poem in conjunction with one of his sermons. No music was set to it. The tune we now typically think of with “Amazing Grace” was not set to Newton’s poem until 50-60 years later – long after John Newton had died. I think Whitley Phipp’s story is so moving that many want to believe it’s true. Another interesting article on this is found on a blog at:


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