Dec. 15, 2011
Vol. 6, Num. 6
The Hugh Tracey kalimba is the work of a lifetime. From 1920 to 1954, Hugh Tracey honed his appreciation and understanding of African music and musical instruments. From about 1950 to 1954, he built over 100 prototype instruments of various designs, integrating aspects of several traditional kalimbas. When he felt he had perfected his design, the Treble kalimba was born, and the deeper Alto followed a few years later.
But after Hugh Tracey had developed his masterpiece instrument, how could he get people interested in it? How could he get people to take it - and him - seriously? The answer to that was, in part, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", the beautiful piece by J.S. Bach that everybody loves to listen to. I have played this song at weddings, memorial services, and silent Quaker Meeting for Worship.
I like to joke: "This is a song Johann S. Bach wrote when he spent a semester abroad in Johann S. Berg." Ed Morgan, Tucson lawyer, told me "The KALIMBA is truly the instrument that Jesu was written for."
And how true those words seemed. Hugh Tracey learned to play Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on his Treble Kalimba, and would perform that piece when he gave lectures on African music and the kalimba. People had never before heard such pure and silvery music come forth... from... a little box with a rake on it?
And I have my own history with Jesu. I learned to play it about 10 years ago "by ear" - well, more like "by memory", and what I didn't remember, I made up. Especially in the B part. Worst of all, I misremembered a part, and actually dropped 1/3 of a measure - no, I don't think Bach would have switched to a single measure of 6/8 time. You are invited to see that error by purchasing my elementary Christmas Book for the Alto and Treble. OK, I suppose I will have to go back and fix it in the next printing.
But the good news for everyone - whether you bought the book or not - is that corrected arrangements of Jesu are now available for free below.
A few notes about these arrangements:
* You can learn more about KTabS on this Learn How page. In order to view the KTabS format file, you will need to install the KTabS program on your Windows computer. You can download the KTabS Reader for free, or you can download the full KTabS Program in Demo version for free (it will work for two weeks, but you can't save any files). The full KTabS program costs $30, and I can tell you that with the number of hours I have used KTabS, it is worth $1000 to me! While it is not for the faint of heart, it is possible to get KTabS to run on the Mac.