Origins: AMEN (Jester Hairston)
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Origins: AMEN (Jester Hairston)


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GUEST 28 Jul 13 - 05:45 PM
Joe Offer 28 Jul 13 - 07:19 PM
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Subject: RE: Origins: AMEN (Jester Hairston)
Date: 28 Jul 13 - 05:45 PM

How do I download/print the song?

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Subject: RE: Origins: AMEN (Jester Hairston)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Jul 13 - 07:19 PM

We don't have an arrangement of the song available here. It is still under copyright protection. You can purchase sheet music from any of a number of sources. One I like is

Hope that helps.

-Joe Offer-

Jim Dixon linked to this text from the University of Massachusetts above, but I thought I'd post it so it doesn't get lost.

Alumnus Jester Hairston Dies at 98: Actor-Composer Helped Preserve Negro Spirituals

by Chronicle staff

January 28, 2000

Jester Hairston, who gave up studies at Massachusetts Agriculture College in the 1920s before going on to a career than spanned movies, television, radio, composing, arranging and choral conducting, died Jan. 18 in Los Angeles. He was 98.

Best known in recent years for playing Rollie Forbes on the NBC sitcom "Amen" in the 1980s, Hairston's earlier acting roles including long-running parts on the radio and television versions of "Amos 'n' Andy" as well as bit parts in Tarzan films.

Although many of his early acting jobs portrayed less than flattering images of blacks, Hairston never apologized for playing racial stereotypes. "We had a hard time then fighting for dignity," he said years later. "We had no power. We had to take it, and because we took it the young people today have opportunities."

Opportunities also expanded for Hairston during his acting career. His films credits included "The Alamo," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "In the Heat of the Night," "Lady Sings the Blues," "The Last Tycoon" and "Lilies of the Valley," for which he composed the song "Amen."

That song, which he dubbed for Sidney Poitier in the movie, reflected Hairston's lifelong dedication to preserving old Negro spirituals. He was a sought-after choral director who organized Hollywood's first integrated choir and composed more than 300 spirituals.

Even in his 90s, Hairston continued to conduct choirs, crisscrossing the world as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

The grandson of a slave, he was born in Belews Creek, N.C., but grew up in the Homestead section of Pittsburgh, where generations of his family worked in the steel mills. Through a scholarship from his Baptist church, he enrolled at Mass Aggie in 1920 to study Landscape Architecture.

At MAC, he briefly quarterbacked the freshman football team and also sang in the glee club as well as several area choirs. He dropped out for several years when his money ran out, returning to school after a woman impressed by his singing offered to finance his education in music. He enrolled at Tufts University and graduated in 1929.

Making his way to New York, he met Hall Johnson, a popular conductor of Negro spirituals who hired Hairston as his assistant. It was Johnson who taught Hairston to respect the Negro spiritual. Shedding his Boston accent, Hairston dedicated himself to preserving the music of the slaves and memorializing the conditions that gave birth to it.

Later in his life, when working with students at college workshops, Hairston would tell them, "You can't sing legato when the master's beatin' you across your back."

When Warner Brothers bought the Johnson show "Green Pastures" in 1935, the conductor and Hairston began their film careers. Hairston's big break came in 1936, when Russian-born composer and conductor Dmitri Tiomkin asked him to conduct the choir in the film "Lost Horizon," which won an Oscar for best score. That began a 20-year collaboration with Tiomkin, who inspired him to form the first integrated choir used in films, including "Red River," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Land of the Pharaohs."

Although he never completed his studies at MAC, Hairston maintained strong ties with the University. In 1972, he was awarded an honorary doctorate. Twenty years later at age 91, he returned to campus again to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Music and Dance.


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