Spiritualis for Orchestra
Fantasy and Fugue on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
The dramatic fantasy section also includes a lyrical rendition of the melody. Solo woodwinds introduce the various sections, and the lively fugue subject is based on this beloved tune. All the instruments participate with countermelodies, imitation, augmentation, and then all join ff rising to Heaven.
Give Me Jesus is also known as “And I Heard the Mourner Say,” a traditional African American spiritual. The text references Matthew 16:26 and other passages in the Book of Matthew regarding the Judgment Day.
This lyrical setting introduces the melody with horn and woodwinds. A recurring melody between verses reinforces the text, “Give me Jesus.” The interludes use either pizzicato strings or staccato xylophone. Amid key changes, duets occur between horn and trombone, and later bassoon and clarinet. In the last two verses there are ecstatic trumpet flourishes capturing the improvisatory feel of spirituals.
Wade in the Water
An African American spiritual, the lyrics to “Wade in the Water” are associated with songs of the Underground Railroad. For example, Harriet Tubman used the song “Wade in the Water to tell slaves who were trying to escape to get off the trail and go into the water that way the dogs and slavecatchers could not sniff out and follow their trail. “Wade in the Water” begins with a pulsing bass and cello with the upper strings carrying the melody with a slight swing. Following stanzas use the woodwinds with imitation, then brass and winds and strings, followed by a walking bass right before an orchestral outburst. A softer section with muted trumpet carrying the melody precedes a fugue that begins with the strings. The full orchestral joins in for an affirmative
“Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel, well Then why not every man?”
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” or “Motherless Child” is an African American spiritual dating back to the era of slavery in the United States. The song is an expression of pain and despair depicting the hopelessness of a child torn or sold from their parents. “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” begins with the basses and celli playing a descending chromatic line, and then the clarinet and horn joins them with the melody. Short dissonant interludes separate the stanzas. Key changes between verses use various instrumentations with counter melodies, imitation, and instrumental comments similar to the call-and-response style. The piece ends quietly almost as if in mourning, “A long, long way from home.”
Fantasy and Fugue on They Crucified My Lord
The African American spiritual folk song, They Crucified my Lord is also known as He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word (also known as They Hung Him on a Cross, Mumblin’ Word, Crucifixion, and Easter), and the hymn name is known as Sufferer.
Fantasy and Fugue on They Crucified My Lord is an intertwining and intersecting of three spirituals: They Crucified My Lord; There is a Balm in Gilead; and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The Fantasy begins slowly, heavily, mournfully with full orchestra loudly mourning the crucifixion with chords of angry disbelief. Then the brass takes up the melody with imitation leading into There is a Balm in Gilead with countermelodies followed by a fugue based on the melody of There is a Balm in Gilead. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is superimposed on There is a Balm in Gilead. The fugue is interrupted by another statement of There is a Balm in Gilead, and as the fugue continues it leads into more tension-filled material of the Fantasy, portraying a loud outburst of grief.
When I Cross That River is a newly composed spiritual by Harbach with several sections, beginning with mournful, earthly existence melodies, followed by a lively and joyful rousing section of going to Heaven with full chords, texture, key and meter changes, all with vibrant orchestration. “When I cross that river, what a day that will be!” highlights strings, brass and woodwind solos, full ensembles all with full lush chords. When I Cross That River began life as a chorus from Harbach’s musical Tom and Sally based on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.