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The term has mostly been used to indicate a religious Negro folk-song, originating firstly in the South of the United states during the slavery period. Although born in slavery its traditions have been continued and the Spiritual as a musical genre continues to this day.
According to noted Negro musician Dr. Melville Charlton, organist of the Union Theological Seminary at New York for 18 years, "a Spiritual is in a specific sense as an American Negro religious folk-song." He would also include any Negro religious song, not composed, in this category. J. Rosamond Johnson, who has studied, sung and composed the music of his race very extensively, defines a Spiritual as "an American Negro folk-song, who's rhythm derived from the African tom-tom beat, with the substance of its text based on prayer and religious fervour; set to the characteristic musical cadence of Negro melody." His brother, James Weldon Johnson, who wrote a very understanding and instructive preface to Mr. Johnson's collection of Spirituals, puts it in slightly different words when he writes, "They are religious folk-songs origi- nated by the Negro in the South and used strictly for purposes of religious worship." Harry T. Burleigh, who is equally well known as a composer and as soloist of St. George's Church, New York, defines a Spiritual as follows:
"The plantation songs known as Spirituals are the spontaneous outpourings of intense religious fervour and have their origin chiefly in camp-meetings, revivals, and other religious exercises. They were never composed but sprang into life ready made from the heat of religious fervour, during some protracted meeting in camp or church, as the simple, ecstatic utterance of wholly untutored minds, and are practically the only music of America which meets the scientific definition of folk-song." Mr. Burleigh then goes on to state that deep spirituality and rhythm are essential components and makes the rather impressive statement that the voice is not so important as the spirit.
It would appear from these various definitions that there are several fundamental properties of the Spiritual, namely: origin among Southern Negro folk, that it shall have grown up uncomposed, its subject matter religion, and possessed of much fervour; a characteristic melody; its rhythm based on the native African tom-tom beat and finally, that it should be the spontaneous outpouring of the spirit. They are suited to communal singing, often use a call-and-response structure, with between the leader and the group.
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|Lawd I Want Two Wings Let The Church Roll On Lift Every Voice And Sing Listen To The Lambs Little Black Train Is A Comin Little David Play On Your Harp Live A Humble Lord, I Don Done Lord, Remember Me Lord I Cant Stay Here By Myself Lord Remember Me Lord Until I Reach My Home Many Thousand Go Marching Up The Heavenly Road March Down To Jordan Mary And Martha Mary Had A Baby Mary Wept An Marthy Moaned Master Going To Sell Us Tomorrow Members Dont Get Weary Michael, Row The Boat A Shore Mos (almost) Don Toiling Here My Army Cross Over My God Is A Man Of War My Good Lords Done Been Here My Lord What A Morning My Ship Is On The Ocean Nobody Knows De Trouble Ive Seen Nobody Knows The Trouble Ive Had Nobody Knows The Trouble Ive Seen Nobody Knows Who I Am Nothing Between Now Let Me Fly No Condemnation In My Soul Oer The Crossing Oh, Mother, Dont You Weep Oh, Peter, Go Ring The Bells Oh, Sinner Man, You Had Better Pray Oh Freedom Oh Mary, Oh Marthy Oh Sinner Oh What A Beautiful City Oh Yes Old Zions Children Marching Along One More River One More River To Cross On My Journey Now, Mount Zion Open The Window, Noah O Mary Dont You Weep O Mother Dont You Weep O Rocks Dont Fall On Me O The Dying Lamb O Yes, Lord O Yes Lord Pass Me Not Peace In The Valley Poor Me Poor Mourners Pray On Ride In, Kind Savior Ride In Kind Savior Ride On King Jesus Ride On Moses Rise, Shine, For Thy Light Is A Coming Rise And Shine Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow 2 Rise Up Dear Shepherd Rock My Soul Rock Of Ages Roll Jordan, Roll Roll On Roll The Chariot Along Room In There Run Mary Run Run Mouner Run|
There are also many other Christian pieces on this site which are included with other collections, e.g. the Children's Songs section contains quite a few.