Three Spirituals

by Max Derrickson

Three Spirituals:
1. Steal away (Arr. Charles Callahan)
2. Were you there (Arr. Mary Beth Bennett)
3. Great Day (Arr. David Schelat)

Those beautiful and emotionally-charged Spirituals that today are considered something between folksong and worship songs were created by black slaves of the American South.  They captured the slaves’ devotion to Jesus, their Savior, and often described, in veiled terms, their agonies and hopes for a new life – not only in Heaven but for freedom now.  Some songs are strongly believed to have had double meanings, such as Steal away (to Jesus), heard tonight, as incitement to slaves to run away.  It’s no wonder that these extraordinary songs often send chills through our spines, so wrought are they with desperation, urgency and hope.  Frederick Douglas wrote: “Every tone [of a Spiritual] was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains.”  Nothing can really compare to a Spiritual masterfully sung by the human voice, but if any instrument could approach the gravity and power of these great works, the mighty organ is the one to do so.