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Ain'-a That Good News -- Dawson

Hello all,
I have two copies of Ain'-a That Good News -- Dawson in my choral library.  One is copyright 1937 (Tuskegee) and the other is a 1974 revised edition (Kjos -- which I'm told bought Tuskegee).  The 1974 edition has an additional verse in the middle of the piece -- "I got a harp up in-a the Kingdom" -- that the 1937 does not include.  I am considering this piece for our State Festival in April and am unsure which version is appropriate.  I see many groups on youtube using the 1937 edition.  Can you all shed any light on why this discrepancy exists?  Which version do you use?  To which version do you think the State Festival list is referring?  
Thanks so much!
Beth Nelson
Baldwin City, KS
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on December 18, 2013 9:31pm
I have a recording of Dawson conducting his Tuskegee Institute Choir and they do the 1937 version.   He was conducting this group until 1956.  The 1974 edition is copyrighted in his name (lived until 1990).   I would say you are safe with the ’37 version but you might see if you can find a Kansas State List that pre-dates the ’74 edition.  If so, the ’37 version will be on there as the work has been in favor since Shaw’s recordings in the 1950s (didn’t he used to change the ending?)…  Hope that helps. 
on December 19, 2013 7:10am
When I was in High School, we did the '37 edition at a State Festival and this was not that long ago. (about 8 years) I think you would be fine with the '37 edition.
on December 19, 2013 12:32pm
As I know it, people enjoyed the '37 version so much that Dawson decided to extend it by adding the middle verse later on.  So I don't think it's an editor insert.
Personally, I've done both, and I enjoy the contrast that the 'newer' verse brings to the piece.  I do recommend checking with your state festival board, but if they don't have a strong preference it's really up to your own taste - they're both classics.
Best wishes,
Tim Reno
Siena College
on December 20, 2013 7:58am
I just wrote my dissertation on William Dawson. There were indeed two versions, and Dawson himself made the revisions. He was VERY meticulous with his arrangements and would not have allowed any changes unless they came from him. See John Haberlan's CJ article about Dawson and copyright issues and you will get a fuller sense of the lengths Dawson went to to protect his music!
Vernon Huff
SUNY Fredonia
on December 20, 2013 8:23am
This story may sound unbelieveable, but it is true:
In the mid-80's, I was conducting this piece with an adult community/business group that grew and needed extra copies.  You guessed it - I did not notice the "B" after the catalog/publisher number, and we had confusion in rehearsal.
I called J.W. Pepper and asked for copies of the "old A" version.  They said they could not do it; that the earlier one was out-of-print.  I said, "We've already begun rehearsing on the older one, and our concert is soon."
I don't recall whether they called William Dawson, or I left a message with his people, but one evening at 11:00 (I'm on EST - he was in Alabama on Central, and apologized)  I received a call from William Dawson.   He tried to convince me that I could use the new copies, and add the middle verse to make them match up.  As I recall there are transitional issues with that.
My group only met once a week on their lunch hour.  I couldn't risk the extra time to explain all this; some did not read music well.  We did the piece the way we had first rehearsed it.
I wonder whether they have since begun to print both versions..?  I feel that the forward movement from section to section is better in the earlier one.
Take-away lesson:  Read those catalog/publisher numbers!  :)
Best Wishes - and hope your Festival brings reason to re-sing, "Ain-a that Good News, Lawd!",
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 21, 2013 7:05am
Vernon -- Great that you focused on William Dawson!  I hope you'll let us know when your dissertation is finalized and available for review and/or purchase.  cheers, chris hoh
on December 21, 2013 9:28am
Beth, I will e-mail you and tell you exactly whom it is that you should write to concerning this issue.
Best regards,
John Briggs
on December 22, 2013 2:54pm
Do you have any further information about Michael's recollection that Robert Shaw changed the ending?  What did Dawson think of this; did he give permission; was there a conflict over this? (I was introduced to the original in the 1960s as a teenager at the NY State Music Camp at Hartwick College, Oneonta.)
Congratulations on completing your dissertation,
Bart Brush
on December 22, 2013 8:02pm
Hello Beth: No matter which edition you perform at festival, please follow the multitude of articulation and dynamic markings to the letter. Many years ago I was privileged to be seated behind Dr. Dawson in a session at an ACDA conference in Atlanta and struck up a conversation with him. He was quite adament as he explained that one of his pet peaves was that people don't pay close enough attention to his markings. He spent about 20 minutes with me. What an interesting Gentleman!
Ken Klaus
Nicholls State University
Thibodaux, LA
on December 24, 2013 11:19am
Bart --
My research focused on Dawson's letters and speeches that are contained in his papers at Emory U. I do not remember seeing anything about Dawson writing to Shaw about this -- and Dawson seems to have kept everything. He and Mr. Shaw knew each other, and Dawson dedicated "Mary Had a Baby" to him. It would be interesting to find out Dawson's thoughts. He was very protective of his work, and went to court to protect his arrangements several times!
on December 26, 2013 3:07pm
Dawson was a genius.  He revised and put out the new edition creating another cycle of 52 years for copyright protection.  I love the contrast provided by the '74 edition.  Not only a brilliant musician, but a great businessman.  I had the great honor of meeting him and attending a session he did at NW-ACDA in 1988.  A dear soul.
on December 26, 2013 8:21pm
I can’t speak to the business issue but a revision of “Ain’-a That Good News” makes good musical sense:  I think the ’37 edition is the shortest piece Dawson ever published by a good half minute; he may have simply thought it needed the extra verse.
on December 27, 2013 5:33pm
Hello, Everyone,
  Congratulations, Beth.
  This is EXCITING to me!
  And it is one of the many challenges of being a participating member in a LIVING tradition as well as a static one.
  Now you have an oppportunity to write your own arrangement.  There's still room in the kingdom.
  That's the good news.
on January 3, 2014 9:56am
I found the same issue with Dawson's "Soon Ah Will Be Done". I found a couple different revisions for that piece as well. In doing a little it of research, I heard that piece sung with a lively tempo, while a performance with Anton Armstrong was much slower and heavier. Does anyone have any quick insight as to the tempo some pieces are sung? Where can I find some info regarding Armstrong's interpretation or even Dawson's thoughts on tempo discrepancy?  Thanks. 
on January 4, 2014 10:44am
Yes, absolutely. If you check into the Dawson archives at Emory U, there is an online ideo recording made by John Haberlan at Georgia State of Dawson teaching the piece. He goes VERY fast. (Of the top of my head, I think the tempo marking is quarter = 132). It is almost like a patter song. Armstrong takes A LOT of artistic licence with his tempo, but I think a case can be made for it, considering the other solo versions of the piece from that era (Mahalia Jackson, etc.). I always find a happy medium of quarter = 80ish.... Hope this helps!
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