“An impressively poised, solemn, and moving performance that brought honor to all the ensembles involved”
Jeremy Eichler
Boston Globe
5 March 2012
(Britten War Requiem)



 







African American Spiritual

By and By  

Arranged by Carol Barnett (1996)

“A keen observer might have detected ... something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach the North, and the North was our Canaan.”

— Frederick Douglass on spirituals
My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

The score of Carol Barnett’s setting begins with an epigraph: “By and By ... irrepressible high spirits, joyfully overflowing the bounds of key and time signatures” — which is exactly what happens. It opens with a tenor solo, moves through two-part, four-, five-, and six-part sections, takes some clever syncopations in stride, makes a subtle key change, passes through two measures of compound meter, and seems to create far more vocal energy than a performance requires.

Barnett is a well-established, longtime presence in Minnesota music making. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, a student of Dominick Argento, a nearly 10-year composer-in-residence with the Dale Warland Singers, and, with Stephen Paulus and others, a founding member of the American Composers Forum. Her compositions have been commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, VocalEssence, the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, the Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis, and nationally by organizations from the American Guild of Organists to the Harvard Glee Club.

The texts, melodies and themes of spirituals can serve many purposes. Oh By and By, for example, was one of five spirituals chosen by Composer Michael Tippett for A Child of Our Time, an oratorio of protest structured like the Bach passions. Tippett, deeply disturbed by events in Germany late in 1938, needed shorter choral pieces that would function as chorales had for Bach, but he wanted music with a more universal, not overtly religious appeal. He found what he needed in African-American spirituals. Oh By and By — “Hell is a deep and dark despair so stop, poor sinner, and don’t go there” — closes Part II of A Child of Our Time, following the alto solo, “The Dark Forces Rise.”


By and By
Traditional African American spiritual

Refrain
    Oh by and by, by and by, I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.

I know my robe’s gonna fit me well,
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
’cause I tried it on at the gates of hell.
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
(Refrain)

O hell is a deep and dark despair,
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
so stop, poor sinner, an’a don't go there.
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
(Refrain)

Oh one of these mornings, bright an’ fair,
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
gonna take my wings and cleave the air.
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
(Refrain)

Oh when I get to heaven gonna sing and shout,
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
for there’s no one there to turn me out.
    I’m gonna to lay down this heavy load.
(Refrain)