“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That old adage isn’t really about books, I know. But at its simplest level, where it is about books, I don’t like it, because I do judge books by their cover. Every time I pick up an unknown book in the bookstore or click through to its listing on Amazon, I do it because the book’s cover caught my eye, because something about it piqued my interest enough that I wandered over to that shelf and picked up that book (and not the one next to it). From there, I can judge the book by its book reviews or blurb or even content, but if I don’t connect with the cover then I won’t make it as far as the table of contents.
The cover of Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven had that tractor-beam affect on me when I saw it at the library. I may have dropped another book rather abruptly in my compulsion to pick up this one, I don’t remember, but it seems likely. I have long admired Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations (and have already featured his book, Noah’s Ark, here on the blog), so that was part of the cover’s pull—once you’ve encountered his distinctive illustrations, it’s hard not to recognize them when they cross your path again—but I was also intrigued by the book’s byline:
“Gathered and Sung by Gloria Jean Pinkney * Art by Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, and Myles C. Pinkney * Prelude by Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale.” Clearly, there is more to this book than story and pictures, and the making of it was a family affair.
I brought the book home, we loved it, and I later purchased a copy of our own. Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven is a richly illustrated collection of African-American spirituals, presented alongside photographs of families worshiping together and verses that relate to each song.
The book comes with a CD of Gloria Jean Pinkney singing the songs, simply and in a rich alto, so the girls love listening to the songs in car while taking turns holding the book. We recognized many of the songs as hymns sung in our own church, but there were plenty of new songs to learn and the girls jumped into them with gusto, singing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” with hearty enthusiasm, while marching around the kitchen (or walking down the block, or sitting on the couch . . . ).
For all that, though, what I like best about Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven is the fact that it gives a clear picture of how one family uses music and art to worship the Lord together. From their involvement in the making of the book to the closing essay by Gloria Jean Pinkney about her own history with music, how she grew up with it and shared it with her children, the book is a testament to the idea that worship is something a family does together—music is a way that we can come alongside each other and rejoice in the Lord through housework or hardship. It is a way that we can rejoice in the Lord on on a daily basis—not just on Sundays—and it is a way that we celebrate holidays like this one, raising our voices together to sing his praise.
Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven
Gloria Jean Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Myles C. Pinkney, Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale (2005)
In honor of Good Friday (and because I can’t get enough of making little playlists for you), I put together a short playlist of some of our favorite Good Friday and Easter songs. The first three are songs that we sing together as a family and church body on Good Friday; the last is the one that I blast through the house every Easter morning. Enjoy!