Article " Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

Dig My Grave, 1913, by Harry Thacker Burleigh, 1866-1949.
Dig My Grave, 1913. Harry Thacker Burleigh, 1866-1949. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M1671.T

In 1914, G. Schirmer published the collection Afro-American Folksongs, edited by scholar and music critic Henry E. Krehbiel (1854-1923). The collection included eleven spiritual arrangements for unison chorus by Burleigh. Dig My Grave was among those arrangements, in a section on funeral music. The four-part, unaccompanied arrangement was published in 1914 along with Deep River by G. Schirmer, New York.

The text and melody of Dig My Grave were taken from Bahama Songs and Stories by Charles L. Edwards. The opening is appropriately somber, marked Grave, and set for four-part men's voices: "Dig my grave long and narrow! Make my coffin long and strong!" At the tempo change to Andante cantabile, the women sing in parallel sixths while the men sustain an open-fifth pedal, "Bright angels to my feet, bright angels to my head, bring angels to carry me when I'm dead." That text paraphrases an old English prayer: "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, guard the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed, four angels to my head, one to watch, one to pray, and two to bear my soul away." For the final phrase, the sopranos sing, piu mosso, "Oh my little soul gwine shine like a star." Choral homophony completes the setting, "Lord, I'm bound to Heaven at last."

About this Item

Title
" Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Subject Headings
-  Burleigh, H. T. (Harry Thacker), 1866-1949
-  Traditional and Ethnic Songs and Music
-  Songs and Music
-  Parlor and Concert Stage
-  Progressive Era to New Era (1900-1929)
-  Worship and Praise
-  Articles
Genre
article
Online Format
image
online text
Description
Article. The text and melody of Dig My Grave were taken from Bahama Songs and Stories by Charles L. Edwards. The opening is appropriately somber, marked Grave, and set for four-part men's voices: "Dig my grave long and narrow! Make my coffin long and strong!" At the tempo change to Andante cantabile, the women sing in parallel sixths while the men sustain an open-fifth pedal, "Bright angels to my feet, bright angels to my head, bring angels to carry me when I'm dead." That text paraphrases an old English prayer: "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, guard the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed, four angels to my head, one to watch, one to pray, and two to bear my soul away." For the final phrase, the sopranos sing, piu mosso, "Oh my little soul gwine shine like a star." Choral homophony completes the setting, "Lord, I'm bound to Heaven at last."
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Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permission ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the bibliographic information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding items and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

Items included here with the permission of the rights holders are indicated as such in the bibliographic record for each item.

In some cases, the Library was unable to identify a possible rights holder and has elected to place some of those items online as an exercise of fair use for strictly non-commercial educational uses. The Library of Congress would like to learn more about these materials and would like to hear from individuals or institutions that have any additional information or know of their history. Please contact:  Performing Arts Reading Room.

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Chicago citation style:

" Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185370/. (Accessed September 21, 2017.)

APA citation style:

" Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185370/.

MLA citation style:

" Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185370/>.