This Little Light Of Mine

arr. Paul Jennings

For several years now, we have had many requests to do some gospel music in the magazine, for African-American History Month, and just because there is so much great gospel music out there. We hadn't done it until now because we hadn't found just the right tune for its introduction. This is tricky because most subscribers teach in very secular situations while most gospel music is anything but secular... as it should be! Imagine how silly we felt when we came across this old favorite.

Like many traditional tunes with long history, "This Little Light Of Mine" can be found in many places and in several forms. Just our meager research turned up several versions of the melody, several sets of lyrics. Aside from being a great old gospel tune, this song also found a second life as a part of the great civil rights rallies in the 1960s, and can be heard on some of the archives of performances at these historic events.

For publication, we chose the version we knew the best, and did it in a popular gospel style which is a joy to play or sing. We use four verses, the fourth verse being a "bring it home" version of the first verse with an extended ending. One of the many traditions in this tune is making up your own verses, so please feel free to do so. It would also be traditional to have at least one gospel soloist doing ad lib singing over at least the last verse.

While we won't go into all of the other verses out there for this song, we will remind you of the "bible school" version of the song which includes verses like, "Hide it under a bushel, No! I'm gonna let it shine," and "Don't let Satan 'Ffff' (make blowing sound) it out. I'm gonna let it shine." In this version, the singer uses her/his index finger as the little light, first hiding it under a bushel (the other hand) and then moving it just as she/he makes the blowing sound. Finger movements can also be added to the verses provided here, bouncing the little light around in a circle, holding it high, etc. If you know these verses, you probably know variations on these motions. We found that several on the staff and in the studio knew other approaches.

We highly recommend that you listen to the recorded version of this song, especially if your singers do not have much of a history with gospel style. Also, please seek out some of the great gospel performers for listening reference. We are pleased with our recording, but we don't hold a candle to their mastery of this style. There is also something wondrous about hearing a great gospel performance, especially the mass choir groups that are readily available on recordings.

And by all means feel free to clap on beats two and four, especially during the last verse. It is actually difficult not to move and clap during this song! Enjoy!

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.