Article " Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, 1920, by Harry Thacker Burleigh, 1866-1949.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, 1920. Harry Thacker Burleigh, 1866-1949. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M1671.B

Burleigh's arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was originally published for solo voice in 1917 following the success of Deep River. This famous spiritual was first introduced to the concert stage by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1871. While the biblical basis for the spiritual's text can be found in II Kings: 2, 11, the origin of the piece is more closely associated with the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, where it served as a coded signal song. Burleigh 's setting was published in 1920 for mixed chorus by G. Ricordi & Co., New York. Antonín Dvořák, Burleigh's professor at the National Conservatory of Music, used the tune of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot in his Symphony No. 9, "From the New World."

The SATB version of Burleigh's solo setting was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956). The piano accompaniment uses a repetitive, falling-chord figure throughout to create the "swing low" aural imagery. Page departs from the usual homophonic, chordal texture to introduce a brief imitation between the soprano and tenor on the second phrase of the spiritual. At the end of the opening refrain, Burleigh writes an eight-measure extension before moving into the first verse. Having cadenced in the tonic key of A-flat, Burleigh begins the extension with the head-motive harmonized in F minor. Then, shockingly, the motive is harmonized in F-flat major before moving directly back to A-flat in the next measure.

About this Item

Title
" Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Subject Headings
-  Burleigh, H. T. (Harry Thacker), 1866-1949
-  Worship and Praise
-  Songs and Music
-  Parlor and Concert Stage
-  Progressive Era to New Era (1900-1929)
-  Traditional and Ethnic Songs and Music
-  Articles
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article
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online text
Description
Article. The SATB version of Burleigh's solo setting was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956). The piano accompaniment uses a repetitive, falling-chord figure throughout to create the "swing low" aural imagery. Page departs from the usual homophonic, chordal texture to introduce a brief imitation between the soprano and tenor on the second phrase of the spiritual. At the end of the opening refrain, Burleigh writes an eight-measure extension before moving into the first verse. Having cadenced in the tonic key of A-flat, Burleigh begins the extension with the head-motive harmonized in F minor. Then, shockingly, the motive is harmonized in F-flat major before moving directly back to A-flat in the next measure.
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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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" Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by Harry Thacker Burleigh. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200185375/. (Accessed April 30, 2017.)

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