Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gospel Arrangements Of "We're Marching To Zion"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post features African American Gospel renditions of the 18th century Issac Watts hymn "We're Marching To Zion".

Click for information about & the lyrics to "We're Marching To Zion". Click for a traditional rendition of that hymn.

The content of this post is presented for religious and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

(These examples are posted in chronological order with the oldest dated examples presented first.)

Example #1: Roberta Martin Singers - Marching to Zion

direfranchement, Uploaded on Aug 4, 2008 [Embedding disabled by request]

Eugene Smith leading the Roberta Martin Singers in an "old time" call to worship. Listen for the florid head notes of Delores Barrett in the background. Definitely my favorite Eugene Smith solo.
Here are three comments from this sound file's viewer comment thread:

direfranchement, 2009
"This recording was made with four voices.

Soloist: Eugene Smith

Tenor: Norsalus McKissick

Contralto; Roberta Martin

Soprano: Delois Barrett

Martin and Barrett easily drown out McKissick on this record. The RMS were criticized in gospel circles for singing like a group of five soloists (in this case four) as opposed to singing genuine quartet harmonies. Recordings like this support that criticism, but with Roberta singing like that, I ain't mad at her."
JayEm86 , 2012
"@direfranchement, are you sure about there being only 4 voices? I can hear a lower contralto singing lower than Roberta and higher than Norsalus. I think she may be Myrtle Scott. You can hear her trailing on the word "God" at 0:42."
em jobs, 2008
"this song make me think of when I was a little boy and my mother marching into the choir loft and the choir singing this one day I will see my mother marching in heaven singing this song."
"We're Marching To Zion" was often sung during church processionals (when the choir marched down the center aisle of the church sanctuary santuary up to the choir loft in back of the minister's podium.) Unfortunately, a number of African American churches no longer have processionals.

Click for a post about Black church processionals.

Example #2: 552. We're Marching To Zion- Earl Washington, song leader

pkteemax, Uploaded on Jun 12, 2009

Huntington coC in Long Island, NY - Gospel meeting
This song leader adds a little bit of Gospel flourishes to the traditional version of "We're Marching To Zion".

Example #3: We Are Marching up to Zion - Mount Zion SDA Church Reunion Youth Choir - Mount Zion SDA Church

Mount Zion SDA Church Uploaded on Nov 29, 2009

Filmed November 29, 2009, Homecoming Sabbath
SDA=Seventh Day Adventist

This song was sung during the church offering. By the way, it's unusual for a church choir to remain sitted when they sing.

Notice that the title of this video is given as "We're Marching Up To Zion". The traditional title for this hymn is "We're Marching To Zion". The standard chorus for this hymn is:
We're marching to Zion.
Beautiful beautiful Zion
We're marching upward to Zion
That beautiful city of God.

In contrast, the chorus for Gospelized renditions of this hymn is usually:

We're marching. We're marching up to Zion.
That beautiful city of God.
We're marching. We're marching up to Zion.
That beautiful city of God.

[repeat entire chorus]
Also, Gospelized versions of "Marching Up To Zion" start with the chorus while the standard hymn starts with the first verse.

Example #4: Remembering Viola Crowley- "We're Marching To Zion"

Rowoches, Uploaded on Jun 20, 2011
The video uploader's summary statement includes information about & praise to the Clara Ward Singer Viola Crowley.

Example #5: Janard! - "We're Marching Up to Zion" Christmas Special Grand Finale

Janard Cross, Uploaded on Dec 26, 2011

Example #6:Trinity United Church of Christ - We're Marching Up To Zion

misaac78Published on Oct 23, 2012
Trinity United Church of Christ - We're Marching Up To Zion
Oct 18, 2009
Notice that most of the choir and some other members of the congregation wear traditional West African (such as Senegalese or Nigerian long dresses for women or agbadas/grand boubou for men) or West African inspired clothing (such as some of the men wearing a dashiki, or women wearing clothing made with Malian mudcloth). Since at least the early 2000s it is customary in a number of African American churches for one Sunday in the year to be designated "African day". On that Sunday, members of the choir and the congregation are encouraged to wear African clothing to the main church service as a way of celebrating their African heritage. This is a huge change in the attitudes that African Americans once had about being of African descent.

Also, notice the woman in the yellow dress in the front of the choir on the far right signing that song. A number of African American churches have a sign language ministry.

*To my knowledge, there’s no specific Sunday that is common among all churches that have this custom.

Darius McCrary - Marching to Zion [from the movie "Something to Sing About"]

Thanks to the composer and the arrangers of this hymn. Thanks to all those who are featured in this video and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

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