"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
Updated: Mar 22
As we continue to celebrate Black excellence, today we feature our middle school chamber strings with a premiere performance of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
Our Middle School Director, Sébastien Ridoré shared that Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is "an important part of the American song and history books. It is a song of freedom that was used by African American slaves during the Antebellum period, used by Civil Rights leaders during the 1960s, and is used today as a call for social justice and equity for all."
The title screen for this performance features one of the most prolific visual artists of the 20th century, Malvin Gray Johnson. His Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is an important painting in the history of African-American visual art at the beginning of the 20th century.
We invite you to learn more about his works here.
Celebrate with us by liking and sharing this featured performance!
More about Sébastien
Sébastien Ridoré is Ensemble Director of the Vivaldi Orchestra at BMP. He shares more about his orchestra's "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" project, and what inspired him to play music.
What inspired you to start playing music/what is your background?
"My mom always had music in the house. When I was young, she bought me a plastic saxophone with four buttons. I would play it for hours, going along with her old ABBA CDs. I eventually picked up the viola when I was seven. I loved the sound and how uncommon it was. I played in a youth orchestra for many years. There, I met some of my best friends and made some of my favorite memories. I continued my musical studies at the Sunderman Conservatory where I focused on classical viola performance. In my spare time, I sang in the college choir, played in a latin percussion ensemble, and played viola in a small jazz combo. Music is the most fun activity for me-- aside from its beauty, the community that it builds and the connections that it forges are priceless."
Tell us a little bit about Vivaldi Orchestra's recent project honoring Black History month last month, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." How did being involved with this work inspire you as an educator?
“'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' is an important part of the American Songbook. It is a negro spiritual sung by African Americans for hundreds of years as a way to overcome troubling times and its influence was pivotal in creating the American sound. The rhythms and notes of the song helped create the blues, rock & roll, jazz, and many other genres of music. As a class, we learned about the history of these spirituals and how they were used by African Americans during the Antebellum period, the Civil Rights movement, and how they are used now. I was inspired by this piece because of its role in our history, and how by performing and learning about the song, we could honor those who helped change our community through music."
Do you have any recent or upcoming projects of note?
"My chamber group, Analog By Choice, will be performing Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartet No. 2 later this year. We will be premiering it virtually. Stay tuned for more information.
I also wrote a song last summer called 'Foliage'. All parts except the bass and drums were made with the viola. This song was inspired by the Middlesex Fells Reservation, which happens to be my favorite place to hike. Now that we are approaching spring, I hope to go back there when the weather gets warmer."
To learn more about Sébastien, we invite you to read his full biography on our Teaching Artists page.