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Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Probable Connection Between The English Song "Green Grow The Rushes O" & The African American Gospel Song "Children Go Where I Send Thee"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I in a two part series on the African American Gospel song "Children, Go Where I Send Thee". That song is also known as "The Holy Babe", "The Holy Baby", and "Born In Bethlehem" and other titles.

Part I provides information, comments, a lyric version and two of YouTube examples of the song "Green Grow The Rushes, O". Part I also includes three lyric versions of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" and four YouTube examples of that song.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/12/children-singing-children-go-where-i.html for Part II of this series. Part II showcases five videos of children singing versions of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee".

The content of this post is presented for historical, folklorist, cultural, religious, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the unknown composer/s of "Green Grow The Rushes, O".
and the unknown composer/s of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee". Thanks also to all those who quoted in this post and all those who are featured in videos that are embedded in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of the videos that are showcased in this post.

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INFORMATION & COMMENTS ABOUT THE SONGS "GREEN GROW THE RUSHES O" AND "CHILDREN GO WHERE I SEND THEE"
Although "Children Go Where I Send Thee" is widely categorized on the internet as a traditional African American Spiritual, I agree with some historical musicologists and some folklorists that "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" is an early 20th century African American Gospel adaptation of much older English and/or Celtic folk song "Green Grow The Rushes, O".

Here's an excerpt from a discussion thread for "Children Go Where I Send Thee" on the internet folk music forum Mudcat http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=5139:
- posted by Joe Offer on 25 May 98 - 04:10 PM [quoting the entry on the Traditional Ballad Index]:
"Earliest Date [for a recording of "Children Go Where I Send Thee"] : 1936 ( Dennis Crampton & Robert Summers)...
Cross-Reference:
cf. "Green Grow the Rushes-O (The Twelve Apostles, Come and I Will Sing You)" (theme and structure)
cf. "Eleven to Heaven" (theme and structure)
NOTES: This could well be an American version of "Green Grow the Rushes-O" (Roud naturally lumps those two and several others). But it's easy to create songs such as this one; in the absence of certainty, I treat them as separate. See also the notes on that song. - RBW"

A blogger who went by the name of Q posted this comment 03 Dec 04 - 09:13 PM in that same Mudcat thread:
"..."Jean Ritchie collected it at a black school in Kentucky, where it may have been picked up from immigrant miners. This is the version best known in the United States. Also known as the 12 Apostles and other titles. Not found in the collections of old slave and plantation songs nor later collections of spirituals. Not listed as a spiritual in the Cleveland Index."
-snip-
For the record, Jean Ritchie was an active member of that Mudcat forum for a number of years. I also was an active member of that forum for around five years from 2004-2009.

The statement that Jean Ritchie collected "Children Go Where I Send Thee"] from a Black school in Kentucky is widely cited on the internet. Jean Ritchie (December 8, 1922 – June 1, 2015) was an American folk music singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find any information anywhere online from what school Jean Ritchie collected this song and when (what year) she collected this song. From reading her Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Ritchie, I surmise that Ritchie collected this song around the middle of the 1940s or towards the end of the 1940s. In addition to the timeline found on that Wikipedia page, two other quotes from that above linked Mudcat thread puts Jean Ritchie's collection of the song "Children, Go Where I Sent Thee" after 1943:
-masato sakurai, 04 Dec 04 - 09:57 AM
"Three field recordings [of "Children Go Where I Send Thee"] are at American Memory from the Library of Congress: Sound Recordings [under various other titles] (put "holy babe" into the search box).

1. "Children, I'm Goin' Way" - Silver Star Singers (rec. 1943)
2. "Holy Babe" - Davies Hill School Chorus (rec. 1943)
3. "Holy Baby, The" - Jubilee Quartet (rec. 5/20/1939)

"Holy Babe" (sung by Kelley Pace, Aaron Brown, Joe Green, Matthew Johnson, Paul Hayes) is on Various Artists: Negro Religious Songs and Services (Rounder).

**
- Q, 04 Dec 04 - 12:56 PM
"Go above and find the links to 'Holy Babe" posted by Masato. These were recorded before the "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" version that was collected by Jean Ritchie."
-snip-
The statement that Jean Ritchie collected "Children Go Where I Send Thee" from a Black school in Kentucky doesn't specify that she was the first person to collect this song. Because "Children Go Where I Send Thee" was recorded in 1936, that song was obviously known before Ritchie collected it sometime after 1943. Also, there's a YouTube sound file (that is embedded below as Example #_ by an African American Quartet which appears to have been recorded by the Gospel Light Jubilee Singers, a North Carolina Gospel Quartet before 1939.

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CATEGORIZING AFRICAN AMERICAN RELIGIOUS SONGS AS "SPIRITUALS" OR "GOSPEL SONGS"
It's important to note that "African American Spirituals" (formerly known as "Negro spirituals") are usually considered to be songs composed by mostly known persons before 1865. While it's possible to compose songs that have the same lyrical pattern of Spirituals (for instance the Fred Hammond's 2001 song "The Spirit of David" (also known as "The Spirit Of The Lord"), after 1865 and particularly after the end of the 19th century, those songs are usually categorized as Gospel songs.
That is why I've categorized "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" as an early African American Gospel song and not a traditional African American Spiritual.

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INFORMATION ABOUT AND LYRICS FOR "GREEN GROW THE RUSHES O"
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Grow_the_Rushes,_O
"Green Grow the Rushes, Ho (or O) (aka The Twelve Prophets, The Carol of the Twelve Numbers, The Teaching Song, The Dilly Song, or The Ten Commandments), is an English folk song (Roud #133) popular across the English-speaking world. It is sometimes sung as a Christmas carol.

...It is cumulative in structure, with each verse built up from the previous one by appending a new stanza...The song occurs in many variants, collected by musicologists including Sabine Baring-Gould and Cecil Sharp from the West of England at the start of the twentieth century. The stanzas are clearly much corrupted and often obscure, but the references are generally agreed to be both biblical and astronomical...

Lyrics
The twelfth, cumulated, verse runs:
I'll sing you twelve,
Ho [a] Green grow the rushes,
Ho What are your twelve, Ho?
Twelve for the twelve Apostles
Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven,
Ten for the ten commandments,
Nine for the nine bright shiners,
[b] Eight for the April Rainers,
[c]Seven for the seven stars in the sky,
[d]Six for the six proud walkers,
[e]Five for the symbols at your door,
[f]Four for the Gospel makers,
Three, three, the rivals,
Two, two, the lily-white boys,
Cloth├Ęd all in green, Ho Ho
[g]One is one and all alone
[h]And evermore shall be so...

The lyrics of the song are in many places extremely obscure, and present an unusual mixture of Christian catechesis, astronomical mnemonics, and what may be pagan cosmology. The musicologist Cecil Sharp, influential in the folklore revival in England, noted in his 1916 One Hundred English Folksongs that the words are "so corrupt, indeed, that in some cases we can do little more than guess at their original meaning".[1].

The song's origins and age are uncertain: however, a counting song with similar lyrics, but without the 'Green grow the rushes' chorus, was sung by English children in the first half of the 19th century.[2][i] By 1868 several variant and somewhat garbled versions were being sung by street children as Christmas carols.[3] Sharp states that the song was very common in Somerset and the whole of the West of England.[1]...

The spiritual Children, Go Where I Send Thee has a similar format, counting down from ten or twelve biblical references."

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INFORMATION ABOUT AND LYRICS FOR "CHILDREN, GO WHERE I SEND THEE"
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children,_Go_Where_I_Send_Thee
"Children, Go Where I Send Thee" is a traditional African-American spiritual song, as well as a cumulative song. This song is also known as "The Holy Baby" or "Born in Bethlehem." There are many versions of this song, each giving a Biblical meaning to the numbers mentioned....

[Explanations for the numerical references in versions of this song]
One for the little bitty baby (Jesus).
Two for Paul and Silas.
Three for the three men riding (Biblical Magi); or the Hebrew children, in some versions.
Four for the four knocking on the door (Four Evangelists).
Five for the Five that came back alive; or Gospel preachers
Six for the six that never got fixed.
Seven for the seven that all went to Heaven
Eight for the eight that stood at the gate.
Nine for the nine that stood in the line.
Ten for the Ten Commandments.
Eleven for the eleven deriders.
Twelve for the Twelve Apostles
-snip-
"Two" is also given as "Two for Mary & Joseph"

In the line "eleven deriders", "deriders" means people who deride (ridicule) the Bible. That line is often given as "eleven is the (or for the) Gospel riders (or Gospel writers).

Lyrics for two other renditions of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" are found below.

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SHOWCASE VIDEOS
These videos are presented in chronological order by their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest video given first.
Click the link given in Part I for examples of the lyrics for song.

Examples of "Green Grow The Rushes O"
Example #1: Sesame Street - "Green Grow the Rushes Go"



MarshalGrover, Uploaded on Sep 6, 2008

A nonsensical counting song.
-snip-
This is a secularized version of "Green Grow The Rushes O".

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Example #2: The Cliff Adams Singers - Green grow the Rushes, oh



Glenn Wallace, Published on Dec 13, 2014

Album:
Sing something simple 76 - 2 full of listening Pleasure - 76 favourite Songs (1976)

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Examples of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee"
Example #1: Mahalia Jackson - Holy Babe



thegreatgospelblog, Uploaded on May 17, 2008
TheGreatGospelBlog.com
-snip-
Here's my transcription of this version of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee":
Go and I will send thee.
What wilt thou send me?
I will send you one one.
One for the holy baby
Born in Bethlehem.

Go and I will send thee.
What wilt thou send me?
I will send you two two.
Two for Paul and Silas.
One for the holy baby
Born in Bethlehem .

[Continue this pattern for these verses]

Three is the Hebrew children.
Four is the four that stood at the door.
Five is Gospel writers [riders?]*

[Mahalia Jackson then skips to "twelve".]

Twelve is the twelve apostles.
Eleven is the Gospel writers (riders?).
Ten is the ten commandments.
Nine is the nine that dressed so fine.
Eight is the eight that stood at the gate.
Seven is the seven that came down from heaven.
Six is the six that couldn’t be fixed.
Five is the Gospel riders.
Four is the four that stood at the door.
Three is the Hebrew children.
Two for Paul and Silas.
One for the holy baby.
Born in Bethlehem.
-snip-
*"Five" is usually given as "Five is the Gospel preachers". Mahala Jackson probably mistakenly sung the same line for "five" as she did for "eleven".

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Example #2: Children Go and I Will Send Thee



Dudley Connell, Published on Dec 19, 2012

A classic recording from 1939, recorded by John Lomax at the Arkansas State Prison in Gould, Arkansas. The singers are Kelly Pace with a handful of his fellow inmates. Considering the date of the recording, it was of course cut direct to disc which had a limited about of space available You can hear where they turned over the disc to continue the record as the fellows counted down from twelve to one and "Born in Bethlehem."
-snip-
"Children Go Where I Send Thee" begins at .30 in this film clip. The singing before that was the ending of another song.

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Example #3: Gospel Light Jubilee Singers- Go Where I Send Thee



Nico Fournier, Published on Jun 22, 2014
Carolina Gospel Quartets- (1938-1939)

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Example #4: The Fairfield Four - Children Go Where I Send Thee



The Fairfield Four Published on Dec 18, 2014

The Fairfield Four want to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
-snip-
Gabriel Scopel de Lima, 2014 wrote this transcription in the discussion thread for that video:
1. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee one by one
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

2. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee two by two
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

3. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee three by three
Three was the Hebrew children
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

4. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee four by four
Four was the four that stood at the door
Three was the Hebrew children
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

5. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee five by five
Five was the Gospel preacher
Four was the four that stood at the door
Three was the Hebrew children
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

6. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee six by six
Six was the six that couldn’t get fixed
Five was the Gospel preacher
Four was the four that stood at the door
Three was the Hebrew children
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

7. Children, go where I send thee
(Well, Lordy, then) Where will you send me?
I’m gonna send thee twelve by twelve
Twelve was the twelve disciples
Eleven was the gospel writers
Ten was the ten commandments
Nine was was the nine that wrestled fine
Eight was the eight that stood was the gate
Seven was the seven that came down from Heaven
Six was the six that couldn’t get fixed
Five was the Gospel preacher
Four was the four that stood at the door
Three was the Hebrew children
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little bitty baby
Born by the virgin Mary
Wrapped in swaddling clothing
Laid down in a manger
Born, born, born in Bethlehem

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