Years ago I wrote a poem that ended with the lines, "I don't know which is worse - to have sorrow mixed with such beauty, or to have beauty arise from such sorrow." If we are alive in the world, we will surely find joy, sorrow, and beauty to be intrinsic to the mix. Negro Spirituals, which arose among the American slaves during the antebellum days in the South, certainly call to mind that tragic mix. White slave-owners instructed their slaves in the Christian faith, and those slaves in turn discovered stories of oppression and liberation that the white Christians did not even know were there. Songs such as "Let My People Go," and "Steal Away" reflected the hope that oppressed people can find in scripture.
"Ezekiel Saw De Wheel," performed beautifully here by the Breath of Life Quartet, is a musically spirited recalling of a vision that was seen by Ezekiel when he was among those who had been uprooted and taken captive into a foreign land, living under the oppression of an expansive empire.