Academic journal article The Hymn

Mary Had a Baby

Academic journal article The Hymn

Mary Had a Baby

Article excerpt

Mary had a baby

Spiritual, arr. Valerie Showers Crescenz [2 -part treble chorus and Orff instruments]. Hinshaw Music (HMC 2231)

A beautifully creative anthem is awaiting two-part treble singers this Christmas. It is based on the familiar call-and-response spiritual Mary had a baby, with its predictable question-and-answer format.

Using some of the Orff instruments gives a rhythmic excitement to the singing of this stimulating piece. Adding to the traditional Orff soprano, alto, and bass xylophones, the güiro and a train whistle (all heard before the first singing part enters) purposefully give a matching drive to the refrain line "The people keep acomin' and the train has gone." Here, the connection with the Underground Railroad is remarkably well addressed with the instrumentation chosen.

Vocally, musical phrases are repeated around the key of F. The range is a comfortable middle C to D above treble C. The constant mf dynamic gives way to a softer volume for the last stanza, including a suspense - ful pedal point preceding the last refrain.

This reviewer had fun deliberating about the conceptual relationship between the birth of Jesus and the "train done gone" as in the original slave song. …

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