This is one of those hymns that make you go “huh!” (And that isn’t a bad thing.)
First “huh” – it’s a Pentecost song, most definitely, stuck in the Worship section. And I go “huh, is that so we’ll use it, because some music directors and ministers will flip right by that liturgical season?”
Second “huh” – it’s a spiritual from the 18th century, with unknown origins. And I go “huh, check out that coded language in the second verse, pointing to the Underground Railroad!”
Ev’ry time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
Yes, ev’ry time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
Upon the mountain, my God spoke,
o’er the mount came fire and smoke.
All around me looks so shine,
ask my God if all was mine.
The River Jordan runs right cold,
chills the body, not the soul.
Ain’t but one train on this track,
runs to heaven and right back.
Third “huh” – the first hit I get when putting this title into Google is Nat King Cole. “Huh, I didn’t know he did an album of hymns and spirituals…. is it sacrilege that I don’t like this version?”
Fourth “huh” I wonder if I can find a less late-50s-good-for-the-white-Ed-Sullivan-audience version on YouTube version to share with y’all, because “huh – this is a song you need to experience, not talk about.”
I did spend a long time listening to versions – and there are a plethora out there. But my eye was caught by the suggestion that the African American choral composer and arranger Moses Hogan did an arrangement of this song, and so I started listening to those. To be honest, there are a LOT of bad versions, mostly sung by high school and college ensembles. There’s the overproduced version by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, too, and men-only or women-only versions.
But “huh” happened again, when I found a version that really moved me, by the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. Here they are, in some traditional garb (which is reflective of the Spanish influence on the indigenous culture, something I learned about during my CPE unit with a Filipino supervisor). I love this version, because there is such life and light in the soloist’s voice, demeanor, and eyes.
Enjoy. Feel the spirit.
Postscript: Sorry these are coming out so late these days – I seem to be experiencing a shift in my sleep habits since Easter. We’ll see if this is the new pattern or if I’ll go back to rising earlier.