Spirituals, Hymns & Gospel Songs
All My Trials
An old spiritual-lullaby that was somehow transported to the Bahamas, where it was rediscovered and
popularised by the folk singer Joan Baez.
arr. Geoffry Russell-Smith - unaccompanied Cat.no.1527 - price code B - duration c.2'30"
John Newton, (1725-1807) a slave trader turned clergyman, became a celebrated hymn-writer while he was vicar of Olney (Bucks).
He also wrote How sweet the name of Jesus sounds and Glorious things of Thee are spoken. The tune is early American (1831) and the
hymn has always been very popular, probably because its words describe its author so well. This arrangement is in gospel style.
piano or keyboard - Cat.no.1551 - price code B - duration c.2’25”
Commissioned by I Gôr Meibion De Cymru, this Welsh hymn tune ( to the words “Pan oedd Iesu dan yr hoelion yn nyfnderoedd
chwerw loes”) might appeal to Welsh-speaking choirs more than English ones, possibly because of its multiple “Amens”
and absence of English words!
piano or organ - Cat.no.1531 - price code C - duration c.3'05"
The words come from the Scottish Psalter of 1650 and are a version of Psalm 23. The melody was probably written (in 1872 ) by Jessie Irvine, daughter of the Minister of Crimond (north of Aberdeen). Its enduring popularity was established when it was sung at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and at the silver wedding anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1948.
piano or organ - Cat.no.1550 - price code E - duration c.3'
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
When a poll is taken of favourite hymns, this one invariably appears in the top ten, and
usually in the upper half. A harmonised version for male voices seems appropriate.
piano or organ - Cat.no.1520 - price code B - duration c.4'00"
A poignant spiritual that many people associate with the voice of Paul Robeson. It is therefore
perhaps not surprising that this arrangement features the basses of the choir.
unaccompanied - Cat.no.1508 - price code C - duration c.2'35"
A very old spiritual that was originally known as Study War No More. It started out as a song associated with the slaves’ struggle for freedom, but after the American Civil War (1861-65) it became a very high-spirited peace song for people who were fed up with fighting.
piano – with tenor/baritone solo. Cat.no.1547 - price code D - duration c.2’40”
A jazzy, up-tempo version of an Old Testament miracle, apparently performed by Ezekiel, when he re-assembled hundreds of dry bones lying on the floor of a valley into a living, huge army. (see Ezekiel, chapter 37). “Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.
Now hear the word of the Lord”. Not to be taken too seriously!
piano - Cat.no.1515 - price code E - duration c.2'00"
On the whole, spirituals tend to fall into two categories. There are the ‘sorrow songs’, intensely moving and slow, (Sometimes I feel like a motherless child; Were you there when they crucified my Lord?) or the exciting, rhythmic, optimistic ones with their promises of heaven.
(I Stood on the River of Jordan;Old Grey Robe; Ride the Chariot). This song is firmly in the latter group!
piano - Cat.no.1553 - price code C - duration c.2’30”
The spiritual often elects Jesus as the slave’s closest and most reliable friend. He is coming in person to gather up his friends and
take them to heaven. (See My journey to the Sky). Give Me Jesus shows a touching faith in that relationship.
“You may have all this world. Give me Jesus”.
opt. piano or organ- solo (any voice) - Cat.no.1563 - price code A - duration c.4’10”
These words have been set by many composers (including Vaughan Williams), but the popularity of the original melody,
(by William Tomer, an obscure late 19th century American) continues as the one most frequently sung –
and with the most fervour! An appropriate encore.
piano or organ - Cat.no.1537 - price code C - duration c.2'45"
A combination of three popular gospel songs from the “Bible Belt”, and an ideal way of ending the concert. The songs are:
Just a closer walk with Thee,‘Do Lord, do remember me and Lead me, guide me along the way. The setting is very rhythmic,
encouraging clapping both during the performance and after it!
piano - Cat.no.1540 - price code E - duration c.5'45"
The railway system of the South was largely constructed with slave labour, and so the symbol of the river as the gateway to freedom, so common in the early spirituals, is here replaced by the railway. (This spiritual was the first male voice choir arrangement by Gwyn Arch to be published
by Roberton Publications in 1985. It continues to chug its way round the world).
piano - Roberton Publications 53111 - price code X - duration c..2'40"
The Lord of the Dance may be better known, but this fine Shaker Hymn deserves its place in the repertoire. The Shaker sect was
well-knownfor its simple lifestyle together with an exceptionally fervent form of worship, hence the “shaker” description.
piano - Cat.no.1564 - price code C- duration c.3’40”
In many spirituals the image of a river is used as the dividing line between this world and eternity, and particularly the River Jordan. In Swing Low, Sweet Chariot we find “I looked over Jordan and what did I see..a band of angels coming after me”, and there are dozens more references. This song is about a ship. “Shout ‘Glory, Hallelujah’ when you see that ship sail by”.
piano - Cat.no.1557 - price code D- duration c.2’30”
The Lord’s Prayer is a text that has inspired countless musical settings from all over the world. This West Indies version from Trinidad
is in characteristic calypso style. The infectious rhythm, evolving from a mix of both African and West Indian folk music,
emerged about 200 years ago and is an integral part of the cultural and social life of the region.
piano - Cat.no.1561 - price code D- duration c.2’15”
Spirituals often refer to Old Testament stories. Here, apart from the river being used (again) as a symbol of escape,
(see I stood on the River of Jordan) there are several unconnected references; the building of Noah’s ark and the story of
Daniel in the lion’s den is interwoven into the request to the archangel Michael. The arrangement is in gospel style..
piano/keyboard - Cat.no.1552 - price code B - duration c.2’10”
This little-known gospel song is associated with Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She quickly gained a national reputation in America as a
singer-evangelist, accompanying herself in a vivid blues style on the guitar. My Journey to the Sky became a classic of the genre.
piano - Cat.no.1546 - price code C - duration c.3’10”
Oh, Mary, Where Is Your Baby?
The answer to the question in the title is, "They took Him from the manger and carried Him to the throne". This Christmas spiritual
from Louisiana invites us to "read in the gospel and learn the news how the little boy child was born".
piano - Cat.no.1565 - price code - duration c.3'00"
The first part of this unusual spiritual relates some Old Testament fragments- “The good book says that Cain killed Abel.
He hit him on the head with a leg of a table”. Then a lively chorus invites us to “Put on your old grey robe and your
golden crown, and be ready when the great day comes”.
unaccompanied - Cat.no.1503 - price code D - duration c.1'55"
This exhilarating spiritual looks forward to the Day of Judgement with eager enthusiasm
and a confident state of readiness. “I’m gonna ride in the chariot to see my Lord”.
piano - Cat.no.1502 - price code D - duration c.2'25"
Rock-a My Soul
"My soul got happy and I stayed all day" when I rocked my soul "in the bosom of Abraham". A rocking arrangement, too!
piano - Roberton Publications 53102 - price code X - duration c.2'45"
Rock of Ages Jubilee
A rarely-heard, ebullient spiritual, and one that deserves to be better known. Its chorus provides a very different setting of the celebrated words “Rock of ages, cleft for me”, and the tune was used by the folk singer Woody Guthrie for his song This Land Is My Land.
piano - Cat.no.1525 - price code C - duration c.1'20"
God be with you and this hymn both come from the American church of the late 19th century. The two composers were contemporaries and the hymns written within 4 years of each other. Robert Lowry was a Baptist minister in Pennsylvania and a prolific hymn writer. He produced over 150. Shall We Gather..... remains his best-known one. The river notion is of course borrowed from the spirituals.
piano or organ – with solo (any voice). Cat.no.1558 - price code C- duration c.3’25”
Written by Gwyn Arch to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of Reading Male Voice Choir, this composition in calpyso style
has three objectives. 1) Use as few words as possible- in this case the three words of the title; 2) Make it progressively more and
more exciting rhythmically as it works towards a big finish; 3) Persuade the choir to clap now and then in the right places!
piano – optional percussion - Cat.no.1545 - price code C - duration c.2'30"
“Not my brother nor my sister but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer”. The slave is realistically aware of
his own shortcomings, but nevertheless he expresses them with infectious rhythm and good humour.
piano –with soloist (or small group). Cat.no.1556 - price code C - duration c.2’20”
The world-famous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson said that There is a Balm in Gilead. was her all-time favourite. In Biblical times
the area of Gilead (north of the Dead Sea) was well-known for the export of balm and aromatic spices.
The mood of this setting is appropriately soothing!
unaccompanied - Cat.no.1519 - price code B - duration c.2'25"
This Little Light of Mine
The idea for This Little Light comes, of course, from John. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works”.
However, the unknown poet develops his own special slant, with no reference at all to theology.
The light may be little, but it seems to penetrate everywhere, and the memorable and much-loved tune shines brightly.
piano - Cat.no.1556 - price code C- duration c.2’30”
The words of spirituals are not always what they seem. In this case they appear to be yearning for freedom.
However, these verses convey a hidden meaning. The escaping slave is told to Wade in the Water because
then the pursuing police bloodhounds would lose his scent.
piano - Cat.no.1554 - price code D- duration c.2’10”
Another little-known spiritual, and set in a blues style, but the message is very positive.
“Brother/sister/father/ you ought to be there when the love comes trickalin’ down.”
piano - Cat.no.1522 - price code D - duration c.2'45"
Two spirituals, both about Noah’s Ark, are combined, allowing the vessel to be both built and then moved.
It sails at a fair rate of knots, too!
piano - (possible audience participation). Cat.no.1555 - price code B- duration c.2’10”