Wade in the Water/Go Down, Moses
These two spirituals obviously speak well enough on their own, but they can also work in tandem with one another when sung as partner songs. In order to sing them together, begin by having the entire congregation sing each refrain, one directly after the other. Then simply put them together by dividing your choir and sanctuary into two groups, with one side singing the refrain of one spiritual, and the other side singing the other spiritual simultaneously. Download a written score of the refrains to use in worship » You can also work to put the stanzas together, but they do not fit quite as well as the refrains.
“You make beautiful things out of the dust” is a reminder of what God can do in the midst of our frailty and brokenness. Your congregation may already be familiar with this song through a vacation Bible school curriculum, but there is a suggestion to be made if you are only familiar with the recording by Gungor. You will notice in his recording that he eventually takes the chorus up one octave to a range unattainable by almost all congregations. My simple recommendation is to sing in the key of D and continue singing the melody in its octave. To simulate the jump Gungor makes, a male voice could sing lead on the melody until the jump, at which point a female voice takes over. This will achieve the same octave leap, but typically people do not strain when they hear a female voice singing in a lower range. If this leap is not important in the worship dynamic you envision, feel free to sing in a lower range throughout. Accompaniment is best supported with a piano, guitar, or band.
Jesus, Thine All-Victorious Love
Charles Wesley has skillfully encapsulated the nature of grace in this hymn as it explores the beginnings of faith and the ever-continuing work of sanctification. Paired with AZMON, it becomes a vibrant proclamation of our faith in God and the work God has done through Christ. Like many of Wesley’s hymns, the meter doesn’t always make it easy to keep the syllabic emphasis consistent across the stanzas (notice “Jesus” is musically emphasized on the second syllable instead of the first, but “refining” works perfectly). However, do not rule out this hymn because of that tiny issue! Sing this with your congregation, and they will simultaneously sing a public witness of praise to God and build a deeper theological vocabulary. Accompany with organ or piano, or create an arrangement of AZMON for your band. G is the ideal key. Read History of Hymns: "Jesus, Thine All Victorious Love" »
This Is Not the End
Listening to the Gungor recording of this original song by Lisa Gungor, you might be inspired to sing this song with a great variety of instruments in your congregation, and we would encourage you to sing this with whatever instruments are available! This simple song lifts up the fact that “accepting the freedom and power God gives us” allows us to be able to say, “This is not the end.” This, then, becomes a song of hope. Sing it with joy and use the instruments you have: piano, guitar, bass, banjo, bass drum, glockenspiel, or anything else that will support the singing. The original key is Db, but if this key is too inaccessible for your players, taking it up a half step to D should help facilitate easier playing from string, wind, and keyboard instruments.
God So Loved the World
This choral classic by John Stainer may be known enough within your church that the congregation can join along with the choir. If not, don’t fret! The choir offering this piece alone is a beautiful offering in worship as well. Churches across the world often await the presence of this Scripture passage in John as an opportunity to sing this work. It is written to be sung a cappella, but if that is not possible, accompany with organ or piano, doubling the choral parts.
Freedom Is Coming
If you have a four-part choir (SATB), sing this South African song a cappella with African percussion as accompaniment. Begin by having the basses sing the bass line, then layer in each part (tenor, alto, soprano) successively with every repetition. Have a soloist sing the melody line, or allow the sopranos to lead. Make note: if a soloist sings the melody, the sopranos should double the alto part when only unison notes are found in the treble clef.
If you do not have a four-part choir, you can still sing this song! Accompany with a piano playing the choral parts, or play a guitar with heavy rhythmic emphasis on the half-note beats in each measure. If you have a hand drum, djembe, cajon, or other percussion instrument, be sure to add it for rhythmic vitality and stylistic authenticity. Read additional commentary on freedom songs »
This rousing spiritual is a bold proclamation of faith and hope as we accept freedom and power this week. Allow the phrases to dynamically reflect the shape of the melodic contour. In other words, don’t sing each “O” as loudly as you would sing the word “freedom;” crescendo toward the key word in each phrase (freedom, moaning, weeping, etc.). Your choir, especially the basses, will love singing this hymn, so encourage them to build toward the refrain, which must take a defiant tone. Accompany with a piano, organ, or a full band. Read additional commentary on freedom songs »
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round
There is no more powerful way to end this service than by singing this unison spiritual that is, in its very “strutting” style, incredibly defiant. Used with interchangeable lyrics in the Civil Rights Movement to stand against the evils of racism, segregation, and violence, this song has the power to be for us a musical way to “accept the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression.” A number of suggested words from the Civil Rights Movement are used, but the original spiritual is also included at the bottom of the page in The Africana Hymnal. Sing this in a very heavy, slow tempo. Singing it a cappella is also encouraged if that is an option. Regardless of the accompaniment, work to loosen up the congregation so they do not sing it with a rigid posture. It would even be recommended for the congregation to “march” on each half note to add to the overall character of defiance.