Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

arr. Paul Jennings

While this is one of the best-known African American spirituals, it can actually be traced back to a Choctaw Indian, Wallis Willis, who lived in the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. When Alexander Reid, a minister at a nearby Choctaw boarding school, heard this song, he transcribed it and sent it to the Jubilee Singers at Fisk University, who then popularized it in their world tours. It was this group that recorded this song on a famous 1909 recording that has now been selected as a part of the National Recording Registry. It was also listed by the RIAA as one of the 100 songs of the century.

We have arranged it here for recorders and orchestra. There are three recorder parts: Soprano 1 uses the notes D, E, G, A, B, C, D' and an optional E' in one instance; Soprano 2 can be played with just G, A, and B; and there is an easy alto recorder part that uses C, D, E, and G. The arrangement can be performed successfully with any combination of these parts, though just the alto part might be a little lacking if that's all you use. Also note the two short solos with ensemble answers. This gives you a chance to let a top player or two shine for a few moments. If you prefer, though, you can keep it as an ensemble piece throughout.

- Gospel swing! - This work starts out in grand concert fashion, with a big brass opening, and a full ensemble with regular, even eighth notes in the rhythms played. But heading into bar 23, the style changes to "Gospel shuffle" - swing style, where the eighth notes are broken triplets. If your students have never played or sung songs in swing style, this is a good place to start, and one listen to the recorded tracks will tell your players how the song should sound.

You can access the piano/recorder score at our web site, if you wish to follow along.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.