Down By The Riverside

arr. and adapted by Paul Jennings

This great old spiritual has a long history that has seen it popular in a number of styles and with a host of different lyrics. Today it is alive as a favorite gospel tune, an anti-war anthem that has evolved for more than a century of wars, and the source of many campfire-style parodies. While it is ideal for the study of spirituals and for a celebration of African American History Month, it is also a spirited song that will be fun to sing at any time of the year.

For this arrangement, we have used an up-tempo gospel setting a bit modernized with the addition of our screaming wind section, blues guitar, and a gospel organ. It is arranged in a traditional "3-part mixed" voicing, which means that the third part is written in bass clef and is limited to a careful "compromise" range from F below middle C to the D above it. This allows the part to be sung by boys whether they have changed voices, changing voices, or low unchanged voices. The song is great for this in that the bridge allows the boys on that part to surge into the melody.

The song can be performed in several ways, including as we did, with each part sung by all singers. Another option would be to have a soloist start each verse, answered by everyone on the lyrics, "Down by the riverside," etc. Of course, for the bridge, starting with the pickups to bar 25, everyone should be singing.

You will hear the addition of claps on the recording during the third verse. These are not on the music, but they feel natural to add.

It is also possible to sing the entire song as a unison song with treble voices. To facilitate this, we have created a special unison part for this arrangement that works with the tracks. You can download it as a PDF file online at our ever expanding web site, As a matter of fact, this is just one of the many bonuses we include online with every issue of the magazine. For this song, you will also find special teaching tracks that feature just part 2 and part 3, as well as an a cappella version of all three parts. They are available as free MP3 files online. All of these bonuses can be found in a couple of places. Either go to the "Downloads" link in our top navigation bar, or find the section for this issue. Once you are there, look for the button labeled "Graphics and Extras."

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.