Deep River

February 2006

Program Notes

 Hold On!

arr. Jester Hairston

 Deep River

arr. John Stafford II
 Great Camp Meeting

arr. Lela Anderson

 Give Me Jesus

arr. Lela Anderson

 Ezekiel Saw De Wheel

arr. Howard Helvey
 Hush! Somebody’s Calling My Name

arr. Brazeal Dennard

The Word Was God

Rosephanye Powell

 In This Land

arr. Wayland Rogers
 Hear De Lambs A-cryin’

arr. Paul Carey

 Since I Laid My Burdens Down

arr. Rollo A. Dilworth

 Motherless Child

Adolphus Hailstork
 In Dat Great Gittin’ Up Mornin’

arr. Jester Hairston


 There is a Balm in Giilead

arr. William Dawson

 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

arr. John Stafford II
 This Little Light of Mine!

arr. Robert L. Morris

 Go Down, Moses

arr. Adolphus Hailstork

 Medley: Where The Sun Will Never Go Down

arr. Joseph Jennings


Two quite different kinds of sacred music have sprung from the African-American experience. One is gospel music; the other is the spiritual. While gospel music and spirituals share many things, and while the distinctions between them are easily and often blurred, they stem from different eras and situations and are in no way identical.

The spiritual is a product of three central experiences. First came the brutal Middle Passage on ships between western Africa and the auction block (an experience which created “the moan”). Following this were the practices of slavery on plantations in the southern United States. Last was the conversion of the slave population to Christianity. Dena Epstein’s groundbreaking book Sinful Tunes and Spirituals brilliantly chronicles this historical development, and I heartily recommend it to the curious among you.

Musically, the spiritual is low-tech. Slaves were mostly prohibited from playing instruments. They weren’t supposed to sing in a group. Slaveholders and overseers considered such an assembly to be potentially subversive. The enterprising slaves would sing anyway, often in the woods, turning a huge washtub upside down to deflect their voices from reaching the master’s ears.

The spiritual, then, was a rural phenomenon, created by people with precious few material resources, making music under horrible circumstances. The sheer will to live, and to communicate in song, somehow triumphed for the most part over despair. We have no authors or composers to credit for this corpus of work. Even though slaveholders finally decided (around 1800) that slaves were worth evangelizing, the slaves’ music held no interest or appeal for the more educated owners. The spirituals’ tunes and styles evolved in oral tradition, before phonographs or ethnomusicologists were there to capture any of them; one wonders how many spirituals are lost to us forever.

Gospel music, by contrast, comes from the urban experience of African Americans following the Great Migration of 1890-1920. Northern cities needed labor for factories, and the Black population in the South needed work. Yet this migration created problems in northern urban churches on Sunday morning. The “old settlers” who liked Mozart and formal services found themselves rubbing elbows with new arrivals, who craved the ecstatic release of the ring shout and “storefront” worship. The genius of gospel music was to please both sets of people, and in the 1930s in Chicago, Thomas A. Dorsey did just that.

I believe that the effect of a spiritual is diluted, if not ruined, by adding instruments. Why all this fuss for fidelity? We are careful musicians; we’re bringing our care to this repertoire as we would with a Paul Crabtree sonnet or a world premiere by Chen Yi. Trevor Mitchell talks with us frequently in rehearsal about approaching spirituals in the same thoughtful way that one would approach Baroque music. There are details of dialect and style to observe, voicings and gesture to master. I like to think that the results are well worth the effort.

The spiritual deserves our best intellectual energies as well as our musical ones. We are fortunate that many scholars and singers, both within and outside the African-American community, continue to preserve and uphold this great musical legacy. I am grateful to the arrangers, living and departed, who have made their music available to us so that we might share it with you. We may affirm once again the spiritual’s wondrous contribution to our souls and hearts as well as to our ears. Thank you kindly for coming to hear us.

           —Jonathan Miller


arr. Jester Hairston: Hold On!

Jester Hairston was born in Belews Creek, North Carolina, in 1902. Jester Hairston's body of work is an institution in the choral and a cappella worlds. He wrote and arranged more than 300 spirituals, and generations of choral singers have grown up on his works. While singing in Los Angeles with the Hall Johnson Choir, Jester met Russian film composer Dimitri Tiomkin, and a 30-year collaboration was begun. Hairston arranged the music for every one of Tiomkin's films, including the Academy Award winner Lost Horizon. As an actor, he was well known for his roles in the radio and TV show "Amos and Andy," in which he played Leroy and Henry Van Porter, and his role as Deacon Rolly Forbes in the TV show "Amen." He also conducted the first integrated choir in Hollywood. Even into his 90s, he continued to tour the world conducting choirs and acting as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Jester Hairston died in January 2000.

Despite this remarkable crossover career, Hairston remained faithful to the traditions of spirituals which inform his arrangements. “Hold On!” sets a work song, which slaves would sing at the end of the work day to inspire them to pick their required allotment of cotton or other crops. The driving rhythm gives encouragement to the body as well as the soul.

arr. John Stafford II: Deep River

John Stafford II (b. 1978) is originally from Danville, Illinois. He is currently appointed at Millikin University in Decatur, teaching music theory, composition, and vocal jazz. His music has been performed throughout North America and Europe. He has earned commissions from the Instituto Cultural Dominico-Americano in the Dominican Republic, the New York Treble Singers, the Prairieland Voices Choral Ensemble, and Millikin University. He has also received recognition from other organizations such as ASCAP, the North American Music Festival at Lynn University, and Primavera En La Habana 2004 (Spring in Havana 2004) International Electroacoustic Music Festival in Havana, Cuba. In addition, his music has been performed by such artists as Velvet Brown, the Gregg Smith Singers, and the University of Northern Colorado Women’s Glee Club. Stafford has received degrees from Millikin University (B.M.) and Bowling Green State University (M.M.).

Stafford’s Deep River is harmonically lush, rich in texture and contrast. The extremely low bass solo gives the song an unusually strong sense of place, literally giving the song a deep river of sound. The tune migrates somewhat to other voice parts, including a majestic move to the tenor line at the return of the opening material. The sopranos’ long held note at the end serves as an uplifted counterpart to the opening solo—signaling, perhaps, that the journey over Jordan has been made, or at least that the promised land is in sight.

arr. Lela Anderson: Great Camp Meeting

Lela Anderson, a native of Houston, was first introduced to music through her parents Archie and Florence Anderson. She received her degrees in music education from Prairie View A & M University, with further study done at North Texas State University and the University of Houston. A charter member of the Houston Ebony Opera Guild , Anderson has performed in numerous choral organizations, including the Houston Grand Opera Chorus and the Houston Symphony Chorus. During her 28 years as an educator, she taught music in all levels of public school, and on the collegiate level. She has worked as a director and clinician in numerous churches in Texas, and performed around the United States, as well as on radio and television. Her choral works have enjoyed international attention through performances of school, church, collegiate and professional choirs, including the Larry Parsons Chorale, the Choral Arts Society of Washington D.C., the National Baptist Convention, and Barbara Tucker and A Chosen Few. She has been honored by Billboard Magazine and ASCAP.

Anderson’s music is unusually well crafted. Her work strikes a superb balance between the spirit of the original tune and finding a slightly updated harmonic garment for it to wear. Great Camp Meeting features a driving rhythm with a “vamp” section borrowed from gospel styles. Fans of Chicago a cappella’s spirituals CD (Go Down, Moses) will recognize in this piece a minor-keyed version of the tune from “Walk togedder, childron.”

arr. Lela Anderson: Give me Jesus

It was with this piece that Lela Anderson first came to the attention of Chicago a cappella. Her setting of Give me Jesus goes one step further than Great Camp Meeting in the direction of complex harmonies, with particularly evocative word-painting during the verses. The song’s dramatic climax frames death not as a dull event to which one should be resigned, but rather a reunion with “my sweet Jesus.”

arr. Howard Helvey: Ezekiel Saw De Wheel

In addition to serving as Organist/Choirmaster of Calvary Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, Howard Helvey maintains a national and international presence as a concert pianist, conductor, composer, arranger and speaker. Known particularly for his published choral music, Mr. Helvey has had his work featured on various recordings, national network and PBS television broadcasts, in such distinguished concert venues as New York's Carnegie Hall, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and numerous locations throughout Europe and Asia. Drawn particularly to folk-based melodies and ancient hymn tunes, Mr. Helvey often incorporates them into his own writing. Besides receiving commissions from numerous church and university choirs, Mr. Helvey has recently completed projects for the renowned Turtle Creek Chorale of Dallas and for the Wisconsin Chamber Choir. In 2002, he received a John Ness Beck Foundation Award for his distinguished contribution to sacred choral music.

There are traditional voicings in spirituals, just as there are in gospel music. These voicings were captured on paper initially by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (in the 1870s) and even more convincingly by Nathaniel Dett in Religious Folk-Songs of the Negro (roughly a generation later). Howard Helvey remains faithful to these voicings in his setting of Ezekiel, whose words recall the images of the prophet’s life in the Old Testament. The text also follows typical structure, with a pair of rhyming verse lines each followed by the refrain, “Way in de middle of de air.”

arr. Brazeal Dennard: Hush! Somebody’s Calling My Name

Throughout his career, Brazeal Dennard has served in many roles, such as guest conductor, clinician, lecturer, and church choirmaster. His numerous professional affiliations include the National Endowment of the Arts, the Department of Cultural Affairs for the city of Detroit, former trustee and member of the Advisory Committee of the Detroit Community Music School, former Chairman of the Music Advisory Committee for the Michigan Council for the Arts, and President of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. Brazeal was invited by the White House to become a member of a special committee to present White House Fellowships to highly motivated young Americans. He is perhaps best known for his work with the Brazeal Dennard Chorale (founded in 1972), a group of highly trained singers dedicated to developing the choral art to its highest professional level. The Chorale developed The Brazeal Dennard Community Chorus in 1985 as a community outreach program. Brazeal Dennard is retired supervisor of music for the Detroit Public Schools and serves as adjunct faculty at Wayne State University.

Hush! Somebody’s Calling My Nameis a perennial favorite of Chicago a cappella audiences. The simple musical materials and poetry of this song take on remarkable life in Dennard’s masterful hands. The melody is simply stated, plainly arranged, and powerfully marked for dynamics and articulation. While the text provides an unusually strong image of death at the end, “creepin’ in my room,” yet there is no maudlin sentimentality created here, but rather merely a statement of fact, followed by the now-familiar chorus.

Rosephanye Powell: The Word Was God

Dr. Rosephanye Powell serves as Associate Professor of Voice at Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama). Prior to her appointment at Auburn University, Dr. Powell served as an Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the music department at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dr. Powell began her tenure at Philander Smith College in 1993, after receiving the Doctor of Music in vocal performance at The Florida State University. She earned the Master of Music degree in vocal performance and pedagogy from Westminster Choir College and the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Alabama State University.

The Word Was Godand its composer have become widely popular. Powell takes as her simple, powerful text the first three verses of the Gospel of John. The piece builds momentum steadily with a distinctive rhythmic figure, presented almost relentlessly but with effective pauses. This work is not technically a spiritual in the strictest sense, since its words were not written by slaves nor passed down through oral tradition. However, the music is so fully imbued with the idiomatic style of the spiritual, so reminiscent in gesture of works like Great Camp Meeting, and so evocative of the work of great composers and arrangers like Lena McLin, that it has found a place as a remarkable contemporary expression of the genre.

arr. Wayland Rogers: In This Land

Wayland Rogers is a conductor, singer and voice teacher as well as a composer. His more than one hundred compositions, published by Boosey and Hawkes and Alliance Music Publications, are heard around the world in concert halls, schools, churches and synagogues. Several have won such awards as The Roger Wagner Center Choral Competition, The Chautauqua Chamber Singers Award, The Illinois ACDA Choral Composition Competition, and The Vincent B. Silliman Anthem Award. He conducts choruses and teaches singing at Loyola University/Chicago and at North Park University. As a lyric baritone, he specializes in the French and German concert song repertoire. He received a Grammy nomination for his recording with Chicago Symphony Winds of Mozart. His singing students regularly perform in opera, concert, television and musical theater in America and abroad.

Wayland Rogers writes with clear and effective drive and voicings for In this Land. Rogers’s setting builds momentum gradually, never getting overly extroverted. The tune comes from John W. Work’s 1960 book, American Negro Songs and Spirituals. The text shares some elements with Hairston’s In Dat Great Gittin’ Up Mornin’. However, the verses here seem more concerned with the welfare of the local community of believers, and with their occasional foibles, than with the breathless excitement of going to heaven. The composer writes that this song “is a compassionate call for social justice but with a tinge of anger in two of its verses at those who would stand in the way of the common good.”

arr. Paul Carey: Hear de lambs a-cryin’

Paul Carey studied composition with Alfred Blatter, Herbert Bruen, Ben Johnston, and Eugene Kurtz. Mr. Carey's graduate studies were at Yale University, where he studied with David Mott. He also participated in extensive recording projects with conductor Arthur Weisberg for summer programs in New York City's Central Park. A gifted accompanist, Mr. Carey has worked with such singers as soprano Erie Mills, tenor Jerry Hadley, bass Eric Halfvarson, and baritone Sherrill Milnes. Mr. Carey founded Vox Caelestis, a professional women’s chorus, in 2000, and directed it for five years, creating many works for that ensemble. His choral music has gained attention nationwide from choruses of distinction. A Cradle Song was a featured composition at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) convention in February 2004. Esta Tarde, mi bien (This Evening, my love) was the winner of the Cambridge Madrigal Singers International Composition Competition and was premiered at the McDowell Colony and also in Boston in May 2004. During the summers of 2002-04, Mr. Carey was invited to participate in the Oxford University Press Summer Institute at Lehigh University, working with fellow Oxford composers Libby Larsen, Bob Chilcott, and Steven Sametz, as well as conductor Nicholas Cleobury and The Princeton Singers to create new repertoire. He was also invited by legendary conductor Gregg Smith in the summer of 2003 to participate in the Adirondack Festival of American Music with the Gregg Smith Singers. Mr. Carey was also the recipient of an ASCAP special award in 2004.

Hear de lambs a-cryin’is in a sense a companion piece to In This Land. Both works put the attention on the believers who are petitioning God for favor. They are both on the contemplative side, each with strong imagery to make the song easy to remember and the message easy to absorb. Hear de lambs a-cryin’ features call-and-response style with a constant request to “feed-a my sheep.” The text also shares material with the well-known work by Dett, Listen to the Lambs.

arr. Rollo A. Dilworth: Since I Laid My Burdens Down

Rollo A. Dilworth is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities and Music Education at the North Park University School of Music in Chicago, Illinois. He received his Doctor of Music degree in conducting at Northwestern University, where he studied conducting and composition with Robert A. Harris. Dilworth’s choral compositions are a part of the Henry Leck Creating Artistry Choral Series with Hal Leonard Corporation and Colla Voce Music Company. Dilworth is a contributing author for the Essential Elements for Choir and the Experiencing Choral Music textbook series. An active and respected conductor, composer, educator, and clinician, with engagements literally around the world, Dilworth has taught choral music at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. He currently serves on the ACDA Central Division Board of Directors as the Repertoire and Standards Chair for Multicultural and Ethnic music.

This song is also well known in church-hymn settings as “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” one of the most joyous of all spirituals. Dilworth’s published arrangement has optional piano and is effective in a cappella performance as well. Since I Laid My Burdens Down borrows heavily from gospel voicings to give a bluesy opening in the men’s voices, filled with seventh chords, before the women enter with the familiar tune. Dilworth even takes care to write specific note-bendings into the score. Following a small joke (which we won’t give away here), Dilworth goes into full-blown shout-style with a rousing finish.

arr. Adolphus Hailstork: Motherless Child

Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork began his musical studies with piano lessons as a child. He studied at Howard University and Manhattan School of Music (M.Mus. in Composition, 1966), spending the summer of 1963 at the American Institute at Fontainebleau, France, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger. After service in the U.S. Armed Forces in Germany (1966-1968), he returned to the United States and pursued his doctorate degree at Michigan State University in Lansing (Ph.D., 1971). His career as a teacher includes professorships at Norfolk State University in Virginia (1977-2000) and Old Dominion University, both in Norfolk, Virginia (2000-present), where he is Eminent Scholar and Professor of Music. Dr. Hailstork writes in a variety of forms and styles. Mourn Not the Dead received the 1971 Ernest Bloch Award for choral composition. In 1990, a consortium of five orchestras commissioned a piano concerto, which was premiered by Leon Bates in 1992. Other significant performances by major orchestras (Philadelphia, Chicago and New York) have been led by leading conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Daniel Barenboim and Kurt Masur. In 1999, the composer’s second symphony (commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra), and his second opera, Joshua’s Boots (commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the Kansas City Lyric Opera), were premiered. In 2002, James Conlon conducted Hailstork’s oratorio Done Made My Vow at the renowned Cincinnati May Festival. In 1992, Dr. Hailstork was proclaimed a Cultural Laureate of the State of Virginia.

Hailstork’s classical training and his extraordinary feel for harmony and supple counterpoint come to the forefront in Motherless Child, which he considers to be one of his choral masterworks. The piece is a remarkable blending of a traditional spiritual tune, a richly layered texture to support the soloist, pleasant harmonic surprises, and thoughtful moments of contrast in the choir.

arr. Jester Hairston: In Dat Great Gittin’ Up Mornin

This rousing song tells the story of Judgment Day, when Gabriel will blow his trumpet and the saved will go up and say “fare ye well!”


arr. William Dawson: There Is A Balm in Gilead

William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) was a composer, choir director and professor.
A graduate of the Horner Institute of Fine Arts, Dawson later studied at Chicago Musical College with professor Felix Borowski, and then at the American Conservatory of Music. His teaching career featured a 25-year tenure with the Tuskegee Institute, starting in 1931. During this period, it was he who appointed a large number of faculty members that later became well known for their work in the field. Additionally, Dawson also developed the Tuskegee Institute Choir into an internationally renowned ensemble; they were invited to sing at New York City's Radio City Music Hall in 1932 for a week of six daily performances. Dawson began composing at a young age. His best known works are arrangements and variations on spirituals; his Negro Folk Symphony of 1934 garnered a great deal of attention at its world premiere, under the direction of Leopold Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The symphony was later revised in 1952 with greater African rhythms inspired by the composer’s trip to West Africa. Widely performed, his most popular spirituals include Jesus Walked the Lonesome Valley, Talk about a Child That Do Love Jesus and King Jesus Is a-Listening. His arrangements are at times unusually adventuresome, especially for the time in which he was writing them.

Balm in Gileadis an expression of tremendous comfort, giving a sense of remarkable repose and hope in the face of suffering. Dawson’s setting becomes gradually more active in the choral part, while always giving pride of place to the magnificent melody.

arr. John Stafford II: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

This piece is from the same collection as Deep River, and Stafford here rocks the house with infectious backup rhythms and gestures reminiscent of Take 6.

arr. Robert L. Morris: This Little Light of Mine!

Robert Morris holds degrees from DePaul University, Indiana University and the University of Iowa. He created awarding-winning choirs while teaching at Hampton University, Winston-Salem State University, Jackson State University and Macalester College. Morris is widely known for his knowledge of classical black choral music literature and performance practices and has made presentations for Chorus America, and in Poland, Germany, Australia, and Brazil. He became the music director and resource person for a small group of scholars who traveled to Cuba to share information by means of an on-going discussion of Culture as Social Transformation. As a composer, Morris has created original works and arranged music that has been performed and recorded by The Dale Warland Singers, VocalEssence, Albert McNeil’s Los Angeles Jubilee Singers, The Moses Hogan Singers and Chorale, The Brazeal Dennard Chorale and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and, in 2004, by the International Symposium of Choral Music’s (ISCM) Youth Chorale in Korea. Morris is one of the few composers chosen by the American Composers Forum to be a Faith Partner. He serves both a Catholic and a Jewish congregation in St. Paul, MN as composer-in- residence. Dr. Morris is also founder and artistic director of the Leigh Morris Chorale, which specializes in performance and education about the music of black composers and performance traditions. The Leigh Morris Chorale Series is published by Alliance Music, with several other publishing houses carrying Dr. Morris’s compositions.

This Little Light of Mine! is a splendid example of what Dr. Morris calls an “urban spiritual.” This hybrid of styles fuses the traditional language of the spiritual with a sophisticated, pianistic, blues-influenced polish. Morris’s experience arranging for Duke Ellington is fully in evidence here, with voicings and rubato at least as evident of big-band string sections as they are of a cappella congregational singing.

arr. Joseph Jennings: Medley: Where the Sun Will Never Go Down

One of the world’s most acclaimed and decorated vocal-ensemble directors, Joseph Jennings joined Chanticleer as a countertenor in 1983, and shortly thereafter assumed his current title of Music Director. Under his direction, Chanticleer has released 25 critically acclaimed recordings (works ranging from Gregorian chant to Renaissance masterworks to jazz), including the Grammy Award-winning Colors of Love and Lamentations and Praises, and has performed at many of the world’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls. In addition to being Music Director of Chanticleer, Mr. Jennings also leads the Golden Gate Men's Chorus. His compositions and arrangements are published by Oxford University Press, Hinshaw Music, and Yelton Rhodes Music.

This medley was originally written for Chanticleer’s album of the same name, recorded shortly after Jennings joined Chanticleer. The tunes included here are Where The Sun Will Never Go Down, Ain’t-a That Good News, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Over Yonder, and I Got Shoes. The final section builds to an ecstatic release with the ring-shout qualities of the very best up-tempo spirituals.

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