Tuesday, July 20, 2010

English Anthems from Spirituals?

As I was researching this series using the highly-regarded sources of YouTube and Wikipedia (if you find it there, it has to be true!), I came across this series from contemporary English composer Michael Tippett (1905-1998).

These are thoroughly English in style and sound, yet the texts and tunes come from the African-American spirituals.

The first is "Steel Away." There is an interesting use of dissidence in the solo voice whenever the text, "the trumpet sounds," appears. Another (below) is "Go Down, Moses."


Steal away, steal away,
Steal away to Jesus.
Steal away, steal away home;
I ain't got long to stay here.

My Lord, He calls me,
He calls me by the thunder.
The trumpet sounds within-a my soul;
I ain't got long to stay here.

Green trees are bending;
Poor sinner souls attending.
The trumpet sounds within-a my soul;
I ain't got long to stay here.


Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land,
Tell, O pharaoh, to let my people go!

When Israel was in Egypt-land,
Let my people go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go!

"Thus spake the Lord," bold Moses said,
"Let my people go!
If not, I'll smite your first born dead
Let my people go!"

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