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- Hymn Lyrics - Hymn Lyrics start page and titles list.
Impresario and singer Theodore Drury — gave African American singers opportunities to perform in grand operas on the opera stage before Black and white audiences under the auspices of his Theodore Drury Opera Company from to Bob Cole and Billy Johnson were a songwriting team that made their start with African American performing companies that formed during this period, including the Black Patti Troubadors. In , Cole and Johnson wrote and produced A Trip to Coontown , the first full-length New York musical comedy written, directed and performed exclusively by African Americans.
Gospels Spirituals Hymns
Rosamond Johnson and his brother, James Weldon Johnson. Rosamond Johnson that became a hit among Black and white audiences in its day, and is still recognized as an American standard. Composer Hall Johnson , who arranged traditional songs and scripted the sucessful Broadway show, Run Little Chillun , in Carl Van Vechten, photographer, On the vaudeville stage, African American performers continued to be required to wear blackface into the beginning of the twentieth century.
But in , the performing and composing duo of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake refused to wear blackface during their vaudeville performances. They managed to make an exception for themselves, as the other African American performers still blacked up, but their statement can be seen as the beginning of the end of blackface. As African Americans began to win victories against racism and assert political power in the early twentieth century, the minstrel show style went out of fashion. The team of Sissle and Blake partnered with another team of African American songwriters, Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, to produce the musical review Shuffle Along , which premiered on Broadway in It was the first major Broadway hit produced, performed, and composed by African Americans.
In the first half of the twentieth century, complex segregation rules continued to restrict performances and venues. Some stages were limited to either white or Black performers, in some venues the stage was not segregated but the audience was, and many venues were entirely for Blacks or whites only. Sheet music publishers and recording companies also designed their products for Black or white audiences, however, music and songs are difficult to segregate.
While composers writing songs for the minstrel stage before the turn of the twentieth century usually had no choice but to identify themselves as African Americans, composers producing popular songs in the s could sometimes choose whether to identify themselves as African American composers, or to allow their sheet music or sound recordings to stand on their own, and perhaps gain wider circulation by not advertising the issue of the composer's origins.
Sometimes photographs of the composers were included on the sheet music were used, and sometimes not. If a song written by African Americans could be performed by popular white singers, a song might gain a wide audience. Marion Harris was another white singer sought out by African American composers because she was both popular among white audiences and could sing blues convincingly.
In his publications, lyricist Henry Creamer chose to identify himself as African American or not, depending upon the market for his songs. For example, the cover of the sheet music for the love song, " After You've Gone " with music by Taylor Layton depicts a white woman and it was Marion Harris who popularized the song.
An example of sheet music that was produced with African American consumers in mind is " Maori ," a love song by Creamer and composer William Tyers about a Samoan girl. It shows a non-white dancer on the cover — an exotic fantasy in its day. The piece was popular with African American bands and their audiences. In contrast to recordings that concealed the African American origins of composers, the recording of Marion Harris singing the Turner and Creamer World War I song " Goodbye Alexander, Goodbye Honey Boy " is a bold statement about the patriotism and service of African Americans in the war.
In the middle of the song Creamer inserts a form of African American poetry called a "toast," spoken in dialect in the voice of the soldier's sweetheart. The verse includes declarations such as, "There never was a colored traitor born on this here Earth. Her performance did not obscure the origins of the composers, but, rather, may have made it more likely that an overtly African American message would be heard by white as well as Black audiences. During the s a group of African American artists, writers, and musicians in New York created a movement that formed the basis of what is called the "Harlem renaissance.
Although the movement was centered in Harlem, it had a national impact. The influence on music initially involved the use of new instruments, particularly the piano. The piano was seen as an instrument of the middle and upper classes, as well as the instrument of composers, and so became a symbol. The use of pianos, brass, and other instruments then had an impact on an emerging new sounds in African American music.
The ragtime of Scott Joplin emerged as new piano style. Jazz evolved out of the complex and varied musical styles of New Orleans paired with the introduction of new instruments. Johnson, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong were among the early composers and performers of jazz. For more on this topic see the article " Jazz. During this period African American composers also began collaborating with white composers and artists in defiance of the segregated music industry. Because of their history of persecution in Europe which had parallels to segregation in the United States, some Jewish composers took an interest in African American musical artists and styles.
An example is " Jubilee Blues ," a song that resulted from a collaboration between lyricist Henry Creamer, composer Maurice Abrahams, and singer Belle Baker, who recorded the song in Abrahams was an immigrant from Russia and Baker was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. It wasn't until the late s and early s that a wider range of African American vocal performers, perhaps most notably Paul Robeson — and the opera star Marian Anderson — , began to gain visibility on the broader theatrical, concert, and film scene.
Meanwhile, the first major movie musical with an African American cast was Hallelujah directed by King Vidor. Programs created during the Great Depression helped progress towards more stage performance venues for African American artists. At the same time, more talented African American artists were making their way from the South to Northern cities.
The ongoing desperation of Blacks in the South under Jim Crow laws sparked an exodus to the northern States that came to be known as The Great Migrations and The first wave of migration reached its peak as African Americans moved north to find jobs during World War I, followed by a lull during the Great Depression. In addition, a growing civil rights movement that was sparked during World War I grew significantly after the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President in , and reached an apotheosis in the mid- twentieth century.
In , in collaboration with other African American artists, he wrote the script and arranged traditional spirituals for the Broadway show, Run Little Chillun. Anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston. New Deal projects also created opportunities for African American scholars interested in the documentation of African American music, folklore, and oral history, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, folklorist John Wesley Work, III , sociologist Lewis Wade Jones , and musician and educator Willis Laurence James were among those who participated in these projects.
Recordings made by them are housed at the Library of Congress and many examples are available online. The event brought together performers of both sacred and secular music. Choirs singing spirituals, Gospel, and "camp meeting" style songs attended. The inclusion of blues was of some concern at first, as blues musicians often used crude language unacceptable to the religious performers and audiences at the festival.
African Americans were also conscious of how they might be seen by whites, and blues was considered "gutter music" by many. But blues artists, such as Buster Brown, Buster Ezell, The Smith Band, and Sidney Stripling did perform at the festival, sometimes with minor modifications to their lyrics. Despite the intermingling of musical styles across racial boundaries over many decades, the Black and white performing arts remained segregated well into the twentieth century.
Songs sung or composed by African Americans were classed as "race music," and in the s there were separate charts for the music of Black and white recording artists. This separation similarly existed in the worlds of the concert hall and of theatrical and film music. However, there were gradual breakthroughs. Both Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson used their celebrity status to campaign for racial equality. The landmark concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.
She performed opera selections for the first half of the concert, and, for the second half, spirituals arranged for orchestra and voice by African American composers.
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Listen to her recording of the spiritual she sang as an encore at this event, " Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen ," arranged by Lawrence Brown. But it was not until the signing of the Civil Rights Act of that legal grounds for the end of segregated entertainment for performers and audiences in public places was created. Blues is an extremely influential vocal music form that arose in the southern states out of Black work songs, chants, and spirituals.
It is characterized by "blue notes," notes that are sung or played flattened in relation to a major scale. It uses specific chord progressions most commonly the "twelve bar blues" and simple repeated lines whose lyrics often spoke of the trials of life. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, African Americans created preserved many older work songs, but new styles of singing them began to emerge, and blues was one of these.
Agricultural work songs were adapted working on the railroads and industrial work, and this was one setting where the blues emerged. Laws in the South that sentenced prisoners to hard labor were used to create free labor for the state, and this was another setting for the use of old work songs and the creation of new ones sung in a style that gave rise to the blues. Some of the old work songs were also still in use among African Americans working in agricultural settings. Ethnographers interested in both the preservation of older forms of African American song and the roots of the blues, such as John Avery Lomax and his son, Alan Lomax, went to prisons and rural areas in the South in order to record songs.
Both these work songs have elements of the blues. Portrait of Bessie Smith holding feathers. Carl Van Vechten, Photographer, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: Handy, sometimes called "the father of the blues," was an African American composer and musician. In his early career as a musician he studied many forms of African American music in his travels around the country. One of the best folk ballads, however, is in the simpler, unrhymed African leader-chorus design.
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This is "The Grey Goose," a ballad about a seemingly ordinary fowl who becomes a symbol of ability to take it. It is a song done with the highest spirits; the "Lord, Lord, Lord" of the responding chorus expressing amazement, flattery, and good-humored respect for the tough bird:. They went hunting for the grey goose.
Then it was six weeks a-finding, and once in the white house, was six weeks a-picking. Even after the great feather-picking he was six months parboiling. And then on the table, the forks couldn't stick him; the knife couldn't cut him. So they threw him in the hog-pen where he broke the sow's jawbone. Even in the sawmill, he-broke the saw's teeth out. Last seen the grey goose was flying across the ocean, with a long string of goslings, all going "Quank- quink-quank. More work songs come from the Negro than from any other American folk group. Rowing the cypress dug-outs in Carolina low-country, slaves timed their singing to the long sweep of the oars.
The leader, a sort of coxswain, chanted verse after verse; the rowers rumbled a refrain. On the docks Negroes sang sailors' chanteys as metronomes to their heaving and hauling. Some chanteys, like "Old Stormy," they took over from the white seamen; others they improvised. Along the Ohio and Mississippi waterfronts Negro roustabouts created "coonjine" songs, so-called after the shuffling dance over bucking gang-planks in and out of steamboat holds. Unless the rhythm was just right a roustabout and his bale or sack of cottonseed might be jolted into the brown waters.
The singers cheered the speed of the highballing paddlewheelers: Alberta let yo' hair hang low. I'll give you mo' gold Than yo' apron can hold. Another type of work song was chanted as a gang unloaded steel rails. Since these rails weighed over a ton apiece and were over ten yards long, any break in the rhythm of lifting them from the flat cars to the ground was a good way to get ruptured, maimed, or killed.
So a chanter was employed to time the hoisting, lowering, and the getting away from it. He was a coach, directing the teamwork, and in self-protection the men had to learn his rhythmic tricks. In track-lining, a similar chanter functioned to keep the track straight in line. As he called, the men jammed their bars under the rails and braced in unison:. Hey, hey, can't you line it! Ah shack-a-lack-a-lack-a-lack-a-lack-a-lack-alack Grunt Can't you move it?
Hey, hey, can't you try. As they caught their breath and got a new purchase, he turned off a couplet. Then came the shouted refrain as the men strained together. More widely spread and known are the: Negro work songs whose rhythm is timed with the swing back and down and the blow of broad-axe, pick, hammer, or tamper. The short lines are punctuated by a grunt as the axe bites into the wood, or the hammer finds the spike-head.
The leader rings countless changes in his words and melody over the unchanging rhythm. When he grows dull or forgets, another singer takes over. The song is consecutive, fluid; it is doubtful if anyone version is ever exactly repeated. Ballads, blues, even church-songs are levied on for lines, a simple matter since- the stanzas are unrhymed. Some lines tell of the satisfaction of doing a man's work well:. The rainbow is the arc of the hammer as the sunlight glints on the moving metal.
Sometimes a singer boasts of being a "sun-down man," who can work the sun down without breaking down himself. Lines quite as popular, however, oppose any speed-up stretch-out system:.
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Some lines get close to the blues: The new-fangled machine killed John Henry; its numerous offspring have killed the work songs of his buddies. No hammer song could compete now with the staccato roaring drill even if the will to sing were there. The steamboat is coming back to the Mississippi but the winches and cranes do not call forth the old gang choruses.
A few songs connected with work survive such as the hollers of the lonely worker in the fields and woods, or the call boy's chant to the glory-hole. At ease from their work in their bunkhouses, the men may sing, but their fancies ramble from the job oftener than they stay with it.
Song as a rhythmic accompaniment to work is declining. John and Alan Lomax, whose bag of Negro work songs is the fullest, had to go to the penitentiaries, where labor-saving devices were not yet numerous, in order to find the art thriving. They found lively cotton-picking songs:. A-pick a bale, a pick a bale Pick a bale of cotton A-pick a bale, a-pick a hale Pick a bale a day. Slower songs came from gangs that were cutting cane or chopping weeds or hewing timber.
Prison work is of course mean and tough: They grouse about the food: An old evangelical stand-by, "Let the Light of the Lighthouse Shine on Me," becomes a hymn of hope that the Midnight Special, a fast train, will some day bring a pardon from the governor. They sing of their long sentences:. This is not the double-talk of the slave seculars, but the naked truth of desperate men telling what is on their brooding minds. Then they sing not loudly but deeply their hatred of the brutality of the chain-gang:.
If I'd a had my weight in lime I'd a whupped dat captain, till he went stone blind. If you don't believe my buddy's dead Just look at that hole in my buddy's head. A prisoner is told: They glorify the man who makes a crazy dare for freedom; Jimbo, for instance, who escapes almost under the nose of his captain, described as "a big Goliath," who walks like Samson and "totes his talker.
They make stark drama out of the pain, and hopelessness, and shame.
It is not only in the prison songs that there is social protest. Where there is some protection or guaranteed secrecy other verboten songs come to light. Coal miners, fortified by a strong, truculent union, sing grimly of the exorbitant company stores:. What's de use of me working any more, my baby? Operator will forsake you, he'll drive you from his do'.
No matter what you do, dis union gwine to stand by you While de union growing strong in dis land. Go in the store and the merchant would say, 'Your mortgage is due and I'm looking for my pay. Big Bill Broonzy is best known as a blues singer, but in the cotton belt of Arkansas he learned a great deal that sank deep. His sharp "Black, Brown, and White Blues" has the new militancy built up on the sills of the old folksong. Such songs, together with the blues composed by Waring Cuney and Josh White on poverty, hardship, poor housing and jim crow military service, come from conscious propagandists, not truly folk.
They make use of the folk idiom in both text and music, however, and the folk listen and applaud. They know very well what Josh White is talking about in such lines as:. It is evident that Negro folk culture is breaking up. Where Negro met only with Negro in the black belt the old beliefs strengthened. But when mud traps give way to gravel roads, and black tops and even concrete highways with buses and jalopies and trucks lumbering over them, the world comes closer.
The churches and schools, such as they are, struggle against some of the results of isolation, and the radio plays a part. Even in the backwoods, aerials are mounted on shanties that seem ready to collapse from the extra weight on the roof, or from a good burst of static against the walls. The phonograph is common, the television set is by no means unknown, and down at the four corners store, a jukebox gives out the latest jive.
Rural folk closer to towns and cities may on Saturday jaunts even see an occasional movie, where a rootin'-tootin' Western gangster film introduces them to the advancements of civilization. Newspapers, especially the Negro press, give the people a sense of belonging to a larger world. Letters from their boys in the army, located in all corners of the world, and the tales of the returning veterans, true Marco Polos, also prod the inert into curiosity.
Brer Rabbit and Old Jack no longer are enough. Increasingly in the churches the spirituals lose favor to singing out of the books or from broadsides, and city-born blues and jive take over the jook-joints. The migration of the folk Negro 1othe cities, started by the hope for better living and schooling, and greater self-respect, quickened by the industrial demands of two world wars is sure to be increased by the new cotton picker and other man-displacing machines.
In the city the folk become a submerged proletariat. Leisurely yarn-spinning, slow-paced aphoristic conversation become lost arts; jazzed-up gospel hymns provide a different sort of release from the old spirituals; the blues reflect the distortions of the new way of life.
Hymn Lyrics - Start Page & Titles List
Folk arts are no longer by the folk for the folk; smart businessmen now put them up for sale. Cast as a rousing jubilee, rather than a sorrow song, she virtually turns the story of Noah-using the antebellum pronunciation of Norah - and the flood into a joyful shout. From the heavily accented introduction by her longtime pianist, Mildred Falls, and organist, Lilton Mitchell to her final phrase, by which time she has sung herself so happy that it takes six repetitions of the final word to bring the song to a close, Mahalia release the full power of her huge, burnished alto.
Her wide range is displayed from the first two verses, which alternate with choruses, to the end, while her sense of syncopation is evident each time she sings the title of the song. Delivered as a testimony, she sprinkles the lyrics with such familiar textual interpolations as "children" "chirrun" for its sonorous quality "talkin' bout'," and "Brother Norah.
This performance is just as appealing as it was when she first delivered it in This gospel ballad, composed in , demonstrates Mahalia's ability to-as gospel singers love to say-"stand flat-footed" and sing. This compliment means that there is very little improvisation, an absence of cliched licks, but an outpouring of pure soul. In this rendition, Mahalia reaches a pinnacle of serenity seldom displayed. Employing both her full chest and head voices, where she invades her soprano quality, she essays several of her favorite vocal mannerisms: Her conviction of the reality of God's love is never more apparent than when she sings "Oh, His love for me" in the final chorus, where she begins the phrase on a high E and works her way down to the key tone.
This version of Dorsey's arrangement of the jubilee spiritual "I Got Shoes" was a popular hit for Mahalia in late and , and was considered to be as close as she would ever come to jazz. It quickly received wide acclaim from jazz enthusiasts, college students and guitarists, resulting in a new cadre of Mahalia Jackson fans. After a four-bar introduction by the bass, supplying a rhythmic riff, the drums, with a two-and four-accented beat, and the piano, spinning forth a series of thirds in the upper register, Mahalia, in stentorian tones, announces that when she gets to heaven, she's going to walk, shout, and talk all over the place.
Treated as a call and response between Mahalia and guitarist Art Ryerson, who displays virtuoso-like technique in his jazz licks, Mahalia literally soars up to heaven, singing at the top of her register for long periods of time. On the verses, she states the word "heaven" on a high Ab, suggesting that there will be real joy there, and descends to a low Ab on the words "Everybody talking 'bout heaven ain't going there," to emphasize its application to the so-called Christian and the sinner.
So called because many of the hymns of the English theologian Isaac Watts and others were rendered in a slow, languorous manner, without a regular pulse, it deteriorated into a style that allowed the singer to execute each syllable by adding several extra tones, bending these added tones in myriad directions, and reshaping the melody into a personal testimony. This tradition is a beloved one in the African-American church, and no one handles the style with as much aplomb as Mahalia.
Though most commonly rendered with a single instrument, piano or organ, this version employs piano and a string orchestra most effectively, for the strings sustain chords as the pianist executes running arpeggios under the voice, leaving Mahalia free to wander through all of the tones in and around the melody, hold tones as long as she feels the spirit, and to color each sound with the hue that gives it real meaning. A prime example is her execution of the word "no" in the first chorus, where not only does she use all of eight tones to state the word, but while she begins in a voice that is patient and confident, the thought of living a life in vain cause her to spit the word out at the end as if it is unholy.
This freedom, however, causes a slight disagreement between Mahalia and the orchestra at the final cadence when she decides to hold a note a little longer than agreed and the orchestra resolves the tone as she continues to hold. This in no way mars this extraordinary performance of a beloved song. A percussive organ introduction begins this genuine example of a shout song, complete with the choir responding to Mahalia's call.
The choir combines the responses of gospel and the bass interpolations of the spiritual "Hallelujah," "My Lordy, Now" , and provides strong support during the vamp at the end of the verse.
Hymn Lyrics - Hymn Lyrics start page and titles list.
In a persuasive delivery, Mahalia invites all to come on and sing, shout, and pray about the goodness of the Lord. Placing the melody in the top part of her range, she fairly preaches in tune. This is one of those songs which could have gone on for several more minutes. This 19th century white gospel hymn, early on adopted by African-American church congregations as one of those songs which would become so well known that it could be sung by any congregation without the benefit of words or music, has been recorded by almost every gospel singer, but it is only on this recording that we finally hear Mahalia Jackson's version.
The wait has been well worth the time. Mahalia sings two verses of the hymn, through which she delivers these familiar words with subtle inflections and controlled nuances. She loses herself in the last part of the song and gently interpolates an "um hun" after the line "Who will all our burdens share," before she brings the song to a close with her perennial slowing down of the last phrase and creating a cadenza on the last syllable.
This is a welcome addition to the Mahalia Jackson library. The re-release of this song will surely please Mahalia Jackson fans, for it was first released in , and though there was one recording of the song before Mahalia's by Eugene Burke, it has not been covered by any other gospel singer. Accompanied by piano, guitar, bass, and drums, the song is set to a medium tempo and sung with restrained control by Mahalia until she reaches the line "The sun is shining for me each day," where she unleashes the power and volume which marks her singing, as she soars up to a high C.
This is a song in which Mahalia becomes the sacred storyteller, speaking to the most despondent listener. Her joyous confidence and solid singing speak to any listener. Notice that in the last chorus when she reaches the line stated above, she opens up the voice and leaves it open for the remainder of the song, even leaping up a fifth on the last word, while changing the color of the vowel to fit her spirit. She, indeed, has found the answer.
Mahalia returns to the Baptist Lining Hymn style for this 19th century hymn. The introduction - the last phrase of the song - by solo organ, with the heavy vibrato associated with the Chicago style of organ playing introduced by Kenneth Morris at the First Church of Deliverance in the late Thirties, sets the tone for her reading of this song. Not until she begins to sing does the piano enter, and then only to play arpeggios and chords under the voice, leaving Mahalia free to celebrate her faith.
This she does as if she is communicating solely with herself and God. While she always takes liberties with melodies and phrasing, she is completely free in this rendition, transforming the hymn from a simple statement of belief into a rousing shibboleth of confidence. The piano and organ provide the perfect complement for this rendition, even serving as the congregation during the chorus and responding to Mahalia's "it is well" and "with my soul" with similar statements in the instruments.
The verses are delivered in a straightforward manner, but when she reaches the chorus, she goes into a vocal tailspin, leaping octaves on the final statement of the word "well" in the last half of the chorus , and then cascading down an octave, all the while turning the melody inside out, and upside down. This is Sunday morning singing. In this shouting rendition of a jubilee spiritual, which must certainly sounds like one the slaves would have rendered, the true meaning of the song becomes easily apparent. The day is likened to a great celebration, and Mahalia, taking the role of a preacher in a fiery sermon, leads the congregation through activities ranging from contacting Gabriel to sound the trumpet Emancipation Proclamation through waking the children notifying the slaves , coming from every nation plantation , to redemption freedom.
All along this journey, the choir reiterates their belief with their response of "fare ye well. She finds special joy in the phrase "great gettin' up morning," and delivers the word "great" on a different pitch each time it returns in the lyric. She even signals its importance by occasionally stating "great, great gettin' up morning," just as if she had been moved by the spirit, and her rendition supports that notion. Notice that though this song is delivered at a rapid speed, she comes to a full stop at the end of the last chorus and in the Baptist Lining Hymn tempo, attaches her usual decorated cadence.
Unfortunately, with the exception of a very few songs of this type, most notably "Rusty Old Halo," Mahalia brought little to these songs. Yet, with the help of solid gospel piano and organ, she manages to transform the song into gospel. Hamblen was always known as a composer who could write an attractive chorus called the "hook" in show business , and he has done the same with this song. The most interesting part of the song is the opening of the chorus: The song was frequently used during her National CBS Radio show, often sung over one of the other two songs with the same title.
Mahalia returns again to the spiritual, a body of music she never forgot. This was extremely important during her career, for she was most active when spirituals were being performed mainly by college and university choirs such as Fisk, Tuskegee, and Hampton, and very few people had any notion of what a spiritual might have sounded like when the slaves created them. When it is remembered that the spiritual in the 19th century was to African-Americans what the gospel song is in the 20th century, her performances of these songs come as close to authenticity as we will possibly ever come.
Thankfully, the performing artists were only Mahalia Jackson and Mildred Falls, for the concerts produced some of the most exquisite recordings left by Mahalia Jackson, of which "Elijah Rock" must certainly be the finest. Mildred Falls reaches her zenith as a pianist and accompanist on this recording, for she not only sets the tempo and mood, but without detracting from the singing of Mahalia, she creates rhythmic and melodic riffs that, when combined with the voice, add up to perfection.
After the piano introduction in which Falls outlines the melody in the bass register of the piano, accompanied by patting her foot, and this is clearly audible, Mahalia begins to weave a story, ostensibly about Elijah, an outstanding prophet of the Old Testament. While Elijah figured in many incidents, including the cessation of the worship of idol gods, raising the widow's son from the dead, and his being fed by ravens, none of these incidents appear in the story. Instead, Elijah is treated as a strong servant of God, around whom Mahalia intersperses "wandering" couplets such as "Satan is a liar and a conjurer too, if you don't mind [watch] out, he'll conjure you," and "Some say the Rose of Sharon, others say the Prince of Peace, but I can tell this old world, He's been a rock and a shelter for me.
Mahalia was in extremely good voice on this recording, and though the large audience applauds enthusiastically after her performance, they are absolutely quiet during the performance. It doesn't matter, however, for Mahalia gets happy, she claps her hands and generally "has church. This recording is a study in beautiful and soulful singing, rhythmic syncopation in both voice and piano, and praising God, all in a minor mode. Like "Walk Over God's Heaven," this rendition was at first viewed by many traditionalists in , when it was released, as being dangerously close to jazz it should be remembered that, Sister Rosetta Tharpe notwithstanding, in the Fifties there was still a line of demarcation between jazz and gospel.
In addition to a boogie-woogie-inspired piano accompaniment by Mildred Falls, Art Ryerson's guitar alternates between jazz and rock licks, while Bunny Shawker insinuates a strong backbeat on the drums. Over this foundation, Mahalia delivers a melodic line that can be traced directly back to one of her idols, Bessie Smith. Alexander, leader of the Pilgrim Travelers, a gospel quartet which flourished from the Forties through the Sixties, the story concerns the encounter of Jesus and a woman from Samaria, of whom he asked for a drink of water, against all social laws of the time.
Extremely popular with quartets in the Fifties, Mahalia cast the song as a rollicking jubilee and essays all of her vocal powers in her rendition, even permitting herself several repetitions of the word "running," to denote the conversion of the Samarian woman. In fact, it is from the country and western repertoire, and like Ray Charles at about the same time, Mahalia sets out to prove that she can handle the literature.
And for the most part, she was successful. Obviously destined for the popular music chart, Mahalia delivers the song in the clear and strong middle portion of her register, and employs little improvisation. The Jack Halloran Singers create a response to her solo by punctuating structural phrases. This rendition includes such popular music traits of the time as modulating up a half step and repeating the final phrase at the end. This was gospel's first strong treatment of a country-and-western-flavored song and is Mahalia at her "easy listening" best.
This spiritual was originally titled "Hold On," and is, like "Elijah Rock," placed in the minor mode. Recorded in , this is one of the most moving and accepted gospel-ized versions of the spiritual many musical purists find gospelized spirituals difficult to accept.
Sung as a moderately fast shout song, Mahalia encourages the Christian to hold on, for there is a reward at the end of the race. Once again she returns to "wandering couplets" for her verses the original song concerns Noah and the flood. In this version she uses such couplets as "I heard the voice of Jesus say, come unto me for I am the way" and "You may talk about me as much as you please, but the more you talk, I'm going to stay on my knees.
The accompaniment is characterized by a grooving pulse that continues after Mahalia has completed her short solo, and then slowly fades. It appears that the second spiritual to be published was "Roll, Jordan, Roll," in the November issue of Dwight's Journal of Music, transcribed by the year-old professional musician, Lucy McKim. Her description is significant, for unlike that of "Go Down, Moses," her description was a serious one, and "in perception and sensitivity it was far in advance of anything that had preceded it.
Unfortunately, it is not Mahalia at her best, or perhaps the circumstances were not at their best. There appears to be a few pitch problems, since voice and instruments never seem to be absolutely in tune with each other. Yet this is an important performance and deserves to be in this collection.
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Among spirituals which parallel the church year, "Calvary" is important, for it, along with "Were You There? Though she is not in her most comfortable performing element, that is, with only a piano for accompaniment, the supporting instruments allow the piano free reign. In fact, this song is a cut from her Easter concert at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, reportedly the first concert of gospel in that bastion of Western European music. Appropriate to the theme, this spiritual is set in the minor mode, and she delivers it as if it were another Baptist Lining Hymn, sometimes adding so many tones to a syllable that a syllable becomes a phrase within itself.
Though she sings only one verse and chorus, she imbues them with the Mahalia Jackson style: In this recording Mahalia transports the listener to Calvary. Ford, one of the popular gospel music composers of the Fifties, has had his songs recorded by such gospel singers as the Angelic Gospel Singers and the Pilgrim Travelers.