Bound for Glory - Introduction to the Project

Award-winning author Patricia Raybon interviews world-reknown calligrapher Timothy R. Botts about their collaboration, Bound for Glory. Bound for Glory releases November 1, 2011 from Tyndale. HEAR THE INTERVIEW at

Patricia: It's a lovely afternoon where I am and I'm just so pleased. What an amazing privilege to talk books today with a worldwide renowned calligrapher Timothy Botts. He's the creator of the beautiful new book on African-American Spiritual from Tyndale House entitled Bound for Glory so welcome Tim. Tim: Thank you very much Patricia. Patricia: It's a delight to talk to you today. Again, I'm Patricia Raybon and I'll serve as our host today but I was also blessed to contribute to this book which as Tim know has a really interesting back story. I'll go ahead and just mention this. Tim is a man who is white and he has produced a book honoring African-American spirituals created by slaves in America who were black so can you tell us Tim what drew you to this particular project? Tim: Well first it was my personal love for the spirituals because I did grow up in my church choir singing many of them and then through the years as an adult I've noticed that whenever I go to choral concerts, it seems like the finale is so often a spiritual because it's just a wonderful way to end a concert. Patricia: Yes. Tim: And so they're personally an important part of my love for music but then another thing happened in my life that was unexpected and that is my daughter and her husband adopted 3 African-American children so I now have 3 African-American grandchildren among our 12, I might add and they have found their way into my heart but in the process of that it did cause me more curiosity about their background just because growing up, I really had very little contact with black people and even as an adult I have embarrassingly few black friends although I'm happy to have Patricia as one of them and so that caused me to just start to look more into the spirituals and the more I delved into the whole body of this wonderful music, the more I wanted to continue. Patricia: Well tell us, before we start talking about the book, just a little bit more about why as a white man in America you did grow up not having a lot of contact with African-Americans and even now as an adult, is that by default based on where you live geographically or because of family decisions or what other things? Tim: I'll be real honest. I grew up with prejudice in my family background. In my family background, there was white flight from our city where African-Americans were moving into the community and so that is a part of my background and... Patricia: Was that in Chicago area?

Tim: No. It was back in Harris Ford, Pennsylvania. Patricia: Oh. Tim: Yeah and I really, I don't mean it to be an excuse but because I did grow up in the suburbs, even all the events of the civil right era which was really when I was a young person old enough to know, I was really basically had my head in the sand. I really didn't, my family, my church, my friends never talked about the whole time of what was going on politically in our country so I just basically... Patricia: So it's... Tim: Go ahead. Patricia: What I was going to say, it's remarkable for you in particular to be the lead person on this particular book. Tim: Though I think it's part of trying to allow God to open my heart more than it has been in the past. Patricia: Describe that opening in the context of this book and actually better question to proceed that one would be describe the work that you were doing previous to this book, the artistic work and why is this different. Tim: I had primarily worked with Scripture and with the lyrics of Great Hymns... Patricia: As a co-author. Tim: And worked with the lyrics of Handel's Messiah so music and scripture have been themes that have inspired me all of my life and of course the spirituals, I've always been a part of that but I've never really delved into them just because I recognize it was a culture other than my own. It's interesting that calligraphy as we think of it in the United States mostly comes from Western European culture and so there again what I do is a little bit foreign to African-American culture except for those who of course have been exposed to it here in the United States so I did come to it realizing that at first I didn't have any idea of what I was going to do because I felt like one of my favorite things to share with people about the kind of permission I needed to do this is that at Christmas time one year, I heard an African-American sing a European Christmas carol and they interpreted it in their wonderful way so that it sounded much different than I had ever experienced that Christmas carol before and then I realized after hearing that, that's what I wanted to do with the spirituals. I wanted to bring my own background, my own experience to these spirituals and celebrate them and hopefully just bring some fresh site to them. Patricia: Yes, that's an interesting story which I didn't know and it gives me another way to look at the absolutely creative artwork that you've created for this book. Why don't you describe it for people? 52 pieces of art, correct? Tim: Yes, that's right. That is the biggest challenge about a radio interview about a highly visual book... Patricia: Yes. Tim: But it does contain full color art throughout and on each spread, there is a different spiritual. I might mention that they are 52 of the most famous spirituals. Most of them are very old ones which date back to the time even before the Civil War or during the Civil War or soon after. Although just because of the inspiration f this whole genre music, spirituals have continued to be written up to the present so I have included a few of those newer ones. Patricia: Yes. Tim: And then I wanted to mention that Patricia and I have shared reflections so in addition to the lyrics

of the song, we have taken turns writing about them and then the final element is a verse from the bible which really helps people realize how strongly grounded in the scriptures these spirituals certainly are. Patricia: That is certainly for me a favorite part of this book too. The art is beautiful. I think the reflections are relevant and topical and timely but then to see how this music is still tied to the spirit and the power of scripture makes it a complete package. It's just wonderful and I'm looking at the table of contents now Tim and I'll mention some of these spirituals which are still familiar with people from Rock of My Soul to Climbing Jacob's Ladder. There's the Balm in Gilead, I Shall Not Be Moved, Steal Away to Jesus, Give me Jesus, Soon I Will Be Done with the Trouble of this World all the way the last song which is Free at Last. Tim: Yeah. Patricia: I think it's a great sampling of this music. Which leads me to my next question, this book Bound for Glory has it's subtitle, Celebrating the Gift of African-American Spirituals so my question is as you see it, what is that gift? How would you describe what these songs give to people and to the world? Tim: Well that really is and in answering that question and it really helps to eliminate more why I did the project because as I started reading these lyrics as a body, it just became so apparent to me that it is and it is a basic spiritual principle that often times we avoid and that is when we go through hard things when we go through pain or injustice, if we turn to Jesus, if we turn to God, He meets us in those dark places in our lowest points and that's what I see demonstrated in these lyrics. I mean in some of these songs, they have the depths of despair and before the song is finished you hear them singing Glory Hallelujah. Only a miracle of God in someone's heart can bring about that change so I am just so touched by the, for me it's a testimony to the power of God that these people who were mistreated and abused by people who oftentimes call themselves Christians they saw past the hypocrisy of that and captured the real Jesus and that's what I want to celebrate from these songs and I find it really fascinating to hear that people of other countries even as far away as Japan where they don't have the exposure to this culture, at least not the way that we do in the United States, I understand that they love these spirituals. They pack out concert halls when a gospel choir comes to sing so that shows there's something very, very special and universal about these songs that meets people where they are. Patricia: Would you call the theology a deliverance theology? Is that a part of what makes it universal? Tim: I'm sure that's true for people who are at a place where they really need to be lifted up. I think that oftentimes, people catch just the beauty and the rhythm and the incredible music. Maybe not even getting the words but the words are what inspire these music and so whether they get the words or not and I guess one of the things I'm trying to do here, I'm trying to help people see these words to realize that there's a powerful basis for these songs. Patricia: Yeah. Did you think when you were working on it how unlikely it is that God would use people who shouldn't have anything to sing about to create this music and also use people who were considered the least among others to demonstrate the power to inspire and save? Tim: Yes, that's a really good point Patricia, I know the apostle Paul talks about how God oftentimes uses that which is considered foolish in the world to shame the wise and the strong and that is the way God works and He has taught me that lessons through exposure to these songs.

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