Frances Crosby talk – Getting it together

This post is part of a series

In my last post I talked about how I came to be giving a talk at a Jazz night, this talk I want to tell you about the week leading up to giving it (and then I’ll actually give you the talk [probably in installments]).

As I said in my last post I had 8 hours across 4 days to write this talk. So on Monday I decided to begin by brushing up on a little musicology (African Spirituals begat Gospel. Gospel begat Blues. Blues begat Swing and Funk. Swing and Funk begat Jazz… or something like that).

One of the things that struck me early in this study was just how much Jazz has influenced all the music that has followed. It was something that binds us altogether (Gen Y – Boomers bridge crossed). Jazz was going to be my in, but how?

So now I decided to do was think about how Jesus has influenced Jazz. I began googling to try and find an interesting biography of a Jazz musician. My hunch was that there was someone’s story I could tell (which would mean I could get over the Gen Y-telling-Boomers-what-their-life’s-all-about problem) and their life would point to Jesus. Trouble was after an hour and a half of reading potted biographies I wasn’t coming up with anything that could sustain a whole talk.

Tuesday I decided to widen the scope. Maybe I didn’t need a Jazz musician, maybe I could choose someone a bit further up the family tree. I looked at Robert Johnson, the blues musician who claimed he sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads so he could play guitar. Its a neat story but it didn’t feel like the link between his music and Jazz was as clear. Then I decided to go over the Jazz musicians I looked at the day before and see what musicians had influenced them. I kept a list of these stated influences and a few names kept coming up again and again. The main one of these was a woman named Fanny Crosby. I found her story, read it and decided she’d be my subject.

All my favourites: Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Wash Johnson, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, all of them named her as a significant influence on their music. I decided for the talk I’d call her Frances Crosby (Frances was her real name – I didn’t want to call her Fanny as the name takes on a new meaning in an Australian context)

So now on Wednesday I had to figure out how I was going to bring out the Gospel in her life. Fortunately I was spoiled for choice an I ended up going with John 9. In it Jesus heals a man blind from birth. This might sound insensitive, given Frances herself was blind, but it gave me a chance to highlight an aspect of her character that was so clearly touched by the goodness of God that it’s inescapably attractive.

Thursday I wrote the talk and Friday memorised and I delivered it.

To see what I mean you’ll have to read the next post.

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