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Singing Black Gospel Music and Spirituals

Sacred choral music from the Afro-American tradition

In the past thirty years, particularly since Vatican II in the Roman Catholic Church, there has been a continuing growth of interest in non-Western sacred choral music. Every denomination has diligently sought to assimilate this music into their worship services. Many have been unsuccessful because of a lack of performance-practice knowledge of the material and the sheer frustration of acquiring the music in written form.

One area of this vast repertoire that has interested many Christians is the sacred choral music of the Afro-American tradition. Since most of this music is steeped in the oral tradition, it is sometimes difficult to find good written arrangements, particularly of the gospel and contemporary gospel selections.

The list on these pages is not intended to be comprehensive; it offers only a small representation of each type of Afro-American music, but it should give music leaders a place to begin in introducing the richness of this choral tradition to their congregations.

TRADITIONAL SPIRITUALS

Spirituals are folk compositions that evolved from the slavery experience in the rural South. These choral pieces are by composers who took the preexisting melodies and arranged them, sometimes in simple and straightforward fashion and sometimes more elaborately.

Go, Tell It on the Mountain
Psalter Hymnal #356, CRC Publications
arr. Hale Smith Easy
In Dat Great Gittin' Up Mornin'
Schumann Music Company
arr. Jester Hairston Medium
Poor Man Lazarus
Schumann Music Company
arr. Jester Hairston Easy
Elijah Rock
Schumann Music Company
arr. Jester Hairston Medium
Hush Somebody's Callin My Name
Shawnee Press
arr. Brazeal Dennard Medium
The Blind Man
Gemini Press
arr. William Grant Still Easy
Balm in Gilead
Kjos, Neil Music Co.,
San Diego, CA 92117

arr. William Dawson Medium
Keep Your Lamps
Hinshaw, P.O. Box 470, Chapel Hill,
NC 27514

arr. Andre Thomas Easy
TRADITIONAL GOSPEL

In contrast to the rural folk origin of spirituals, Black gospel music is composed and urban in origin. And whereas spirituals were for voices only (though hand clapping persisted even after the outlawing of drums), the piano has always been part of Black gospel music.

Black gospel music, which evolved out of the blues and has been influenced by jazz and even ragtime, has a vibrant, rhythmic beat. Most songs in this genre have personal texts that often reflect needs and experiences. The compositions listed here were composed between 1950 and 1960.

Lord, Keep Me Day by Day
Martin Morris Music, Inc. 4312 S.
Indiana Ave., Chicago, IL 60653

arr. Kenneth Morris Medium
He Is Always Right By My Side
S.R. Music Publishing Company, P.O.
Box 6343, Hayward, CA 94544

Steven Roberts Medium
The Lord's Expecting Me
Savgos Music, Inc-Bmi, P.O. Box 279,
Elizabeth, NJ 07207

James Cleveland Medium
Since He Died For Me
Rev. Earl A. Pleasant, Publishing, P.O.
Box 3247, Thousand Oaks, CA 91357

Margaret Douroux Medium
Songs Recorded by Mattie Moss Clark
Bridgeport Music, Inc., 19631 West
Eight Mile Road, Detroit, MI 48219

Mattie Moss Clark Medium
Lead Me, Guide Me
Psalter Hymnal #544, CRC Publications
Doria Akers; Smallwood Easy
The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power
Psalter Hymnal #552, CRC Publications
Andrae Crouch Easy
Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow
Psalter Hymnal #637, CRC Publications
  Easy
We've Come This Far by Faith
Psalter Hymnal #567, CRC Publications
Albert Goodson Easy
GOSPEL ANTHEM

Only one composition is listed here, representative of a hybrid form combining the Black gospel song with the type of traditional anthem that was popular among church choirs a generation ago (and is still found in many older choir libraries). This kind of attempt at a "classical gospel" church anthem remained popular for a long time. The result was a traditional church anthem that used the gospel piano sound and the personal text typical of Black gospel music.

One Church; One Faith; One Lord!
Virgie C. DeWitty, 1106 E. 10th St.,
Austin, TX

Virgie DeWitty Medium
CONTEMPORARY GOSPEL

These compositions have a broader harmonic vocabulary than those in the previous categories. Jazz influences are apparent in many of them.

Love Alive
Lexicon Music, Inc. Distributed by
World, Inc., Waco, TX 76703)

Walter Hawkins Medium
Love Alive II
Lexicon Music, Inc. Distributed by
Word, Inc., Waco, TX 76703)

Walter Hawkins Medium
Love Alive III
Lexicon Music, Inc. Distributed by
Word, Inc., Waco, TX 76703

Walter Hawkins Medium
Danniebelle This Moment
Lexicon Music, Inc. Distributed by
Word, Inc., Waco, TX 76703

Danniebelle Hall Medium
Bless His Holy Name
Psalter Hymnal #627, CRC Publications
Andrae Crouch Easy
The Songs of Walter Hawkins as recorded by Tramaine
Lexicon Music, Inc. Distributed by
Word, Inc., Waco, TX 76703

Walter Hawkins Medium
Spread Love, by Take 6
(heavy jazz influences)
Warner Bros. Publications Inc.

M. Warren,
C.McKnight and
M. Kibble

Difficult
Gold Mine, by Take 6
(heavy jazz influences)
Warner Bros. Publications Inc.

M. Warren,
C.McKnight and
M. Kibble

Difficult
Through it All
Lorenz Publishing Co., 501 E. Third St.,
P.O. Box 802, Dayton, OH 4540

Andrae Crouch
arr. Robert Hughes
Easy
CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALS

Like contemporary gospel, these arrangements of spirituals make use of

a wider harmonic vocabulary, with both jazz and gospel influences.

My Lord, What a Mornin'
Gentry Publications, Box 333,
CA 91356

Tarzana, arr. Larry Farrow Medium
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Gentry Publications, Box 333,
CA 91356

Tarzana, arr. Larry Farrow Medium

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For additional material from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, click here.