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Long-time Indianapolis pianist helps preserve church hymns for future generations to enjoy

Contribution part of Elder Music Recording Project
Rev. Dennis Freeman at the piano
Posted at 2:09 PM, Feb 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 14:25:05-05

BLOOMINGTON — Indiana University's Traditional Arts Indiana is getting a huge boost for their Elder Music Recording Project: They were selected to receive a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Long-time Indianapolis pianist Rev. Dennis Freeman is one of the musicians who took part in the project. His contribution? Old hymns and Negro Spirituals commonly heard in the black church.

"I grew up attending Sunday School, Baptist Training Union, that's where I learned the songs, the hymns of the church," Freeman said.

It's also where he fell in love with the piano. Over the years, carrying on the tradition of black church music, gifted to him by his family. At the age of 80, just a month from 81, a lot of the renditions of the music that lives within him, can't be found online.

"I want to keep the legacy of the Negro Spirituals, the old-time hymns, I want to keep that going," Freeman said.

His part in the Elder Music Recording Project will help with that. Listening guides will go along with the music he's playing. It's for everyone to enjoy, but especially for those who are older, bringing back memories from long ago.

"Music can provide a sense of well-being for older adults. It can provide a sense of mastery and brings people together," Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana, said. "The project aims to celebrate this traditional music but also highlight the amazing work that older musicians are doing."

Kay tells WRTV, Freeman's recordings will be available for the public to hear in April. You can learn more about Traditional Arts Indiana and the Elder Music Recording Project by clicking here.

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