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Of all the concerts given in Eliot's Music in America series, the Friday night performance of Marion Williams and the Stars of Faith was perhaps the most impressive. It was certainly the most dramatic. Several husky undergraduates nearly fainted during the song; two members of the audience broke blood vessels in their hands from clapping.
Miss Williams, a short but large woman of great dignity, has the most extraordinary voice of any gospel singer. At one moment, her tone is full and clear; at the next it shifts to a growl, her full vibrato becoming a whisper. The other night she improvised melodic lines within strikingly complex rhythms.
More than that, she managed to transform songs about Negroes into songs about the human condition. "No Room at the Hotel," for example, looked at first to be the archtypical protest chant, but ordinary Freedom Riders fare would dissolve under comparison. In one of her most exciting solos, "I'm On My Way," she sang: "We've had a hard journey, but we're on our way." It was a statement of progress.
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