Philip Silvey - composer
By an' By - SSA - Philip Silvey

O by and by, by and by,
I’m goin’ to lay down my heavy load.
O by and by, by and by,
I’m goin’ to lay down my heavy load.

I know my robe’s goin’ to fit me well,
I’m goin’ to lay down my heavy load’
I tried it on at the gates of Hell,
I’m goin’ to lay down my heavy load.

O Hell is a deep and dark despair,
I’m goin’ to lay down my heavy load;
Stop, poor sinner, don’t go there,
I’m goin’ to lay down my heavy load.

“By an’ by” appears in the historic collection of spirituals prepared by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamund Johnson, first published in 1925. In the preface of this volume, the authors note the undeniable dignity inherent in spirituals, a truly remarkable attribute considering the circumstances under which they were born. The title line of “By an’ by” refers to a hoped-for time in the future and ultimately, heaven; a notable contrast to the images of hell depicted in the verses. As in many spirituals, the authors used Biblical imagery to signify both immediate freedom from slavery and eventual relief from the toils of this world. In this arrangement, vocal lines expand into tone clusters to suggest the other-worldliness of the hereafter. These suspensions of time at cadence points momentarily interrupt the interplay of syncopations in the recurring line “I’m gonna lay down my heavy load.” Since the tune is exchanged between various voice parts (mostly covered by second soprano) and soloist, all singers should be mindful of keeping the melody prominent at all times.

Duration: 2:25

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Copyright © 2018 Philip E. Silvey