Let Us Break Bread Together
arr. Paul Jennings
This wonderful old spiritual wears two faces. The more obvious face is the one that keeps this song in the repertoire of choirs at many schools and churches. It is a rich, fun-to-sing song that can either speak of sharing a meal in a general way or breaking bread together as one does in a church service.
Then there is singing the song with the underlying meaning that was prevalent for several generations of African Americans during the Civil War and before, in much of the 19th century. This was a well-known slave "code song." Words and phrases took on double meanings, usually having to do with scheduling meetings, methods of escape, and directions for finding one's way to freedom.
We could take a whole page turning this into a lesson, but we have already done that. We had an article about the song in Music K-8, Volume 2, Number 3. If you have that one you can find it there, or if you missed that gem of an issue you can still purchase it. Or you can just download those three pages which we will provide for you.
Our arrangement of this tune is in two sections, as is appropriate for the song. It opens as a solemn folk tune for a verse, then it transitions up a step adding an underpinning of an African beat. The verse begins with recorders playing the melody while the rest of your performers clap and patsch. (If that's a new term to you, it means slapping your thighs.) Halfway through the verse, voices take over, with recorder joining the singers for a big ending. There is an easy to perform divisi at the end, though it is optional.
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.