Most representative Spirituals
If you were to program one or at the most two Afro-American
Spirituals to represent the contribution of this genre to our choral
tradition what would it/they be?
3- Every Time I Feel the Spirit
You May Burry Me in the East- arr. YHork
4-Ain-a That Good News- Dawson
Ive been Buked- Johnson
4- Battle of Jericho- Hogan
2-Ezekiel Saw the Wheel
My Lord What morning- Burliegh
2-Elijah Rock- Hogan
Aint Got Time to Die- Johnson
Bright Mansioin Above arr. Carter
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
2-Soon Ah Will Be Done- Dawson
My Souls Been Anchored in the Lord- Hogan
Sometime I Feel Like Moanin Dove- Shaw
I Want Jesus to Walk with Me- Hairston
City Called Heaven arr. Poelinitz
Got a Mind
Like a Mighty Stream- Hogan
All My Trials- Luboff
This Little Light of Mine- Hogan
Regarding spirituals, it depends if you want the most musically
sound, the most powerful lyrics, or the most popular tunes. Of course
you'll hear of Deep River and Wade in the Water, for which there are
several excellent arrangements of each, but there are many many more
which all have excellent reasons to be named the best. Some of my
favorites were done with the Pacific Boychoir Academy http://
www.pacificboychoiracademy.org/recordings.html. The album has
excellent liner notes, and the conductor, Kevin Fox, could share an
incredible amount of info about performance of Spirituals.
This music, particularly, is hard to explain via the internet, so I
suggest getting on the phone with authorities like Anton Armstrong of
St. Olaf, David Morrow of Morehouse, Scott Tucker of Cornell, Jim
Litton formerly of the American Boychoir, and a representative of the
Harlem Boys Chorus.
I assume that you would want one of the traditional older style
arrangements by Hall Johnson or Harry Burleigh (and so many others)
or something that was performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
By the way, I think that the preferred term these days is African-
American rather than Afro-American, if you are planning on using that
That is a thought-provoking question. Kind of like asking which
female in your choral ensemble most represents her sex.
Choral music written in the American tradition that happen to share some musical characteristics in common that have a sound most closely
associated with the music of the black community are all over the map. They vary in mood, tempo, texture, accompaniment, impact. . . . .
If it were me, and I wanted a varied program, I might see if I had a
title of a spiritual or gospel piece to fit a certain textual or mood or tempo need I might have. But to me, there are so many choices from that repertoire that I am hard pressed to come up with a generic
our finest two composers/arrangers of spirituals: Dawson and Hogan.
Every Time I Feel The Spirit
The two I would choose (from sooooo many favorites) would be "You May
Bury Me in the East," arranged by John W. Work, and "Ain-a That Good
News" in the William Dawson arrangement. The first isn't performed
too often, but it's a more plaintive spiritual -- absolutely
gorgeous. (It has a soprano solo as well.) The other is the one we
all know and love, and for good reason! They represent two very
different takes on the yearning-for-heaven theme.
1. I've been buked by Hall Johnson. It represents "old school"
settings (Hairston, Dawson, Dett, etc.) It is simple, slow, chordal,
and represents the pathos of spirituals.
2. The Battle of Jericho by Moses Hogan. It represents new settings
(Carter, Moore, Hailstork, Thomas, etc.) Energetic and spirited.
Tells a biblical story which is typical of a certain type of spirituals.
Every Time I Feel the Spirit and Ezekiel Saw the Wheel for traditional.
I would also submit Battle of Jericho-Hogan and Witness-Halloran for
My Lord What a Morning Burleigh (Older and Slow/Legato)
Elijah Rock Moses Hogan (Newer & Faster/Rhythmic)
If you have a tenor or Sop who can do the solo in a no-holds-barred
style, how about "Ain't Got TIme to Die" Arranged by Hall Johnson.
DeCormier did a great arrangment of "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" from
"They Called Her Moses" that may still be in print.
anything by William Dawson and then "In Bright Mansions Above" arr
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is one of my absolute favorites.
Ezekiel saw de wheel - William Dawson
Soon Ah Will Be Done--Dawson
Anything by Moses Hogan--Battle of Jericho, My Soul's Been Anchored
in The Lord
Deep River, Soon ah will be done, any Hogan arr.
Ain'a That Good News - arr. Dawson,
Sometime I Feel Like a Moanin' Dove - arr. Shaw
"Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" arr by Moses Hogan and "I Want
Jesus to Walk with Me" arr by Jester Hairston (the Hogan version is
The two most powerful I've done are Precious Lord (Dr. King's
favorite) and City Called Heaven (arr. Josephine Poelinitz). Why? You
just have to hear them. Elijah Rock, Aina That Good News, and Got A
Mind are also top choices for choirs.
M.Hogan's "Like a Mighty Stream"
N.Luboff's arr "All My Trials"
M.Hogan's "This Little Light of Mine"
and absolutely close with
Wm. Dawson's "Every Time I Feel the Spirit"
and Dawson's "Ain't a that Good News".
Someone recently mentioned the Robert Fountain encore arrangements of spirituals. A recording from U.Wisc has a slight variation of Dawson's "Ain't a that Good News", and has "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child" and other deep, delicious arrangements.
"The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those
that sing the best." Attributed to Henry David Thoreau
Dr. Robert Eaton, Artistic Director
Assabet Valley Mastersingers
Assabet Valley Chambersingers
Minister of Music
First Baptist Church of Lexington
Treasurer/Past-President Mass. American Choral Directors Association