Drink Water begins around 2:45 in this recording.
Voices of the Past
Irene Williams is featured in the Library of Congress digital collection Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Story. She shares several songs, including Come Butter Come and Jay Bird Singing featured on this website. Ask students to consider what we can learn from hearing from former slaves, rather than just about them. What voices should be preserved in our present-day world? What can students do to ensure their voices are heard and shared?
Williams recollects, "We ring up this play and one would get in the ring and we all go round and the one that get in the middle would start the singing. " It's unclear if the description belongs to Drink Water, or perhaps to the next song on the record. The description, along with the overlapping feel of Irene's singing, suggests to me that the song may have been sung call-and-response, with the notes in gray sung by the leader and the refrain sung by the encircled group.
Her description is an enigma, but a creative starting point for inventing a movement game to accompany the song. Inspired by the song and description, informed by other experiences in folk dance, what movements will your students create?
Explore these other recordings of similar songs with oral histories from the Library of Congress. How can these addtional informants' singing and descriptions inspire your students to create a song and game interpretation of their own?
Interestingly, these two versions were recorded only 1 day apart in the same location: The porch of the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Tartt of Livingston, AL. How might different oral traditions develop in parallel within a community? Can students think of instances when that has happened in their own community?