maandag 3 juli 2017

The Song of the Contrabands (1861) / Go Down Moses (1914) / Way Down In Egypt Land (1939) / Let My People Go

"Go Down Moses" is an African American spiritual, that dates from before the Civil War.
It describes events in the Old Testament of the Bible, specifically Exodus 8:1: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me", in which God commands Moses to demand the release of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

In the song "Israel" represents the African-American slaves while "Egypt" and "Pharaoh" represent the slavemaster.  Going "down" to Egypt is derived from the Biblical origin; Moses was up on the mountain of God when God commanded him to go to Egypt (Exodus 3:1-12). Also, the Bible generally recognizes Egypt as being at a lower altitude than Jerusalem and other core areas of Israelite territory; thus, going to Egypt means going "down" while going away from Egypt is "up".
In the context of American slavery, this ancient sense of "down" converged with the concept of "down the river" (the Mississippi), where slaves' conditions were notoriously worse, a situation which left the idiom "sell [someone] down the river" in present-day English

"Go Down Moses" was published on sheet music in 1861 under title "The Song of the Contrabands 'O Let My People Go'")
This Song, originated among the "Contrabands" (a contraband was a slave who escaped to the north during the Civil War) and was first heard sung by them on their arrival at Fort Monroe; and was introduced here by their Chaplain: Rev. Lewis Conger Lockwood.
A comment by Lockwood on the last page of this sheet music says: This Song has been sung for about nine years by the Slaves of Virginia

Go Down, Moses

Go Down, Moses -

"Go Down Moses" was also published on page 22 in the Jubilee Songs (1872), made popular by the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in their concert tours. In a tour of Great Britain and Europe in 1873, the group, by then with 11 members, performed "Steal Away to Jesus" and "Go Down, Moses" for Queen Victoria in April. According to local oral tradition, Queen Victoria was so impressed by the Singers that she commented that with such beautiful voices, they had to be from the Music City of the United States. Hence, the moniker for Nashville, Tennessee - Music City USA - was born.


In 1877 "Go Down Moses" was published in J. B. T. Marsh's The Story of the Jubilee Singers with their Songs


"Go Down Moses" is also on page 56 of Henry Randall Waite's "College Songs: A Collection of New and Popular Songs of the American Colleges" (1887)


And it´s also on page 153 of Thomas P Fenner's "Religious Folk Songs of the Negro as Sung on the Plantations"


First recording I could find:

(o) Tuskegee Institute Singers (1914)
Recorded August 31, 1914 in New York
Released on Victor 17688

Listen here:

(c) Reed Miller (1918)  (as "Go Down Moses")
Released October 1918 on Edison Blue Amberol: 3574
Also released on Edison Record: 6028 and 80487

Listen here:

In 1917 Harry T. Burleigh wrote a new arrangement of this spiritual and a few years later also made a very rare recording on the first African-American Owned And Operated Record label of George W. Broome.

(c) Harry T. Burleigh (1919)
Released September 1919 on Broome Special Phonograph Records #51

Listen here:

(c) Bentley Ball (1920)  (as "Go Down Moses")
Recorded January 1920
Matrix 90051
Released on Columbia A3086

(c) Noble Sissle's Southland Singers(1921)  (as "Go Down Moses")
Recorded early 1920 in New York City
Matrix 68470
Released in 1921 on Pathe 20488

Listen here

(c) Virginia Female Jubilee Singers (1921) (as "Go Down Moses Way Down in Egypt land")
Recorded September 1921 in New York
Released on Okeh 4437

Listen here:

(c) Roland Hayes (1922)  (as "Go Down Moses (Let My People Go)")
Lawrence Brown: piano
Recorded 1922 in London
Released in December 1922 on Vocalion R-6097 (in the UK)

And in February 1923 on single-sided Vocalion B-3032 (in the UK)

Also released in 1923 on (red wax) Vocalion 21002 (in the USA)

Re-released in 1927 on Vocalion 1073 (in the USA)

Also re-released in 1930 on Supertone 2238 (in the USA)

Listen here:

(c) Marian Anderson (1924) (as "Go Down Moses (Let My People Go)")
Recorded May 29, 1924 in Camden, New Jersey
Released on Victor 19370

Listen here:

(c) Wheat Street Female Quartet (1925) (as "Go Down, Moses")
Recorded January 29, 1925 in Atlanta, GA.
Released on Columbia 14067-D

Listen here

(c) Paul Robeson (1930)  (as "Go Down, Moses")
Lawrence Brown (Piano)
Recorded February 27, 1930
Released on HMV B-3381

(c) Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (1939)  (as "Way Down In Egypt Land")
Recorded October 6, 1939 in Rock Hil, South Carolina
Released on Bluebird B-8306 and Montgomery Ward 8775

Listen here:


University Singers, "Go Down Moses" (Cameo 530, 1924)
Cotton Belt Quartet, "Go Down Moses" (Vocalion 1024, 1926)
Tuskegee Quartet, "Go Down Moses" (Victor 20518, 1927; rec. 1926)
University of North Carolina Club, "Go Down, Moses" (Brunswick 3161, 1926)
Big Bethel Choir, "Go Down Moses" (Victor 20498, 1927)
Edna Thomas, "Go Down, Moses" (Columbia 1606-D, 1928)
Rev. H. B. Jackson, "Go Down Moses" (OKeh 8804, 1930; rec. 1929)
Rev. Fullbosom, "Moses Go Down into Pharoahland" (Paramount 13078, 1931 - a recorded song/sermon)
Ebony Three, "Go Down Moses" (Decca 7527, 1938)
Charioteers, "Go Down Moses" (Columbia 35718, 1940; rec. 1939)
Southern Sons, "Go Down Moses" (Bluebird B-8808, 1941)
Hampton Institute Quartette, "Go Down Moses" (RCA 27472, 1941)
Harmonizing Four, "Go Down Moses" (Vee Jay 864, rec. 1958)

On February 7, 1958, the song was recorded in New York City and sung by Louis Armstrong with Sy Oliver's Orchestra.
Released on the album "Louis and the Good Book"

(c) Pete Seeger (1961) (as "Go Down Moses")

Released on Folkways Records FA 2323

Listen here:

(c) Bob Dylan (1987)  (as "Go Down Moses")

Dylan played the song live on 2 occasions

September 5, 1987 at Hayarkon Park Tel-Aviv, Israel
October 17, 1987 at Wembley Arena London, England
•Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
•Tom Petty (guitar)
•Mike Campbell (guitar)
•Benmont Tench (keyboards)
•Howie Epstein (bass)
•Stan Lynch (drums)
•The Queens Of Rhythm: Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec (backing vocals).

The Neville Brothers sang it at Woodstock 1994 (as "Let My People Go")

The song heavily influences "Get Down Moses", by Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros on their album Streetcore (2003).

(c) Brendan Croker & Bruno Deneckere (2010) (as "Let My People Go")

Listen here:

More versions here:

According to Religious Studies professor and Civil Rights historian Charles Marsh, it was African American Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer who combined "Go Tell It On The Mountain" with "Go Down Moses", taking the last line of the chorus, "Let my people go" and substituting it in the chorus of "Go Tell it on the Mountain".


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