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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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|Scandalized My Name Shout For Joy Singing Wid A Sword In Ma Han Singin Wid A Sword In Ma Han Sinner, Please Dont Let This Harvest Pass Sinner Please Slavery Chain Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Daughter Some Of These Days Some O These Days Soon A Will Be Done(2) Soon A Will Be Done (1) Soon A Will Be Done 1 Soon A Will Be Done 2 Soon One Mawnin Death Come Creepin In Yo Room Soon One Morning So Glad Ive Got The Stone Stand By Me Stand Still Jordan Steal Away And Pray Steal Away To Jesus Steal Away To Mah Fathuhs Kingdom Study War No More Sunday Morning Band Sweet Canaans Happy Land Sweet Music Swing Low Sweet Chariot(2) Swing Low Sweet Chariot Swing Low Sweet Chariot (1) Swing Low Sweet Chariot 2 Take My Mother Home Tell All The World, John Tell Em Im Gone Thank God Im On My Way To Heaven That Lonesome Valley Theres A Great Camp Meeting Theres A Meeting Here Tonight There Is A Balm In Gilead There Is A Land Of Pure Delight The Baby Gone Home The Blind Man Stood By The Road The Coming Day The Driver The Gift Of God Is Eternal Life The Gospel Train The Hangman Johnny The Heavenly Road The Old Sheep Know The Road The Ship Of Zion The Ship Of Zion (1) The Ship Of Zion (third Version) The Ship Of Zion 1 The Ship Of Zion 2 The Ship Of Zion 3 This Little Light Of Mine This May Be The Last Time This Old Time Religion This World Almost Done Time Is Drawin Nigh To My Fathers House Traveling Shoes Trouble Done Bore Me Down Tryin To Get Home Turn Back Pharaohs Army Until I Reach A Ma Home Until I Reach A Ma Home View The Land Wade In The Water Walkem Easy Walk About Elders Walk Em Easy Walk Together Children Walk You In The Light Want To Go Home Way In The Kingdom Well Soon Be Free Well Understand It By And By Were Marching To Zion Weve Come A Long Way We Am Climin Jacobs Ladder We Are Climbing Jacobs Ladder (1) We Are Climbing Jacobs Ladder 2 We Ll Soon Be Free We Shall Overcome We Shall Walk Through The Valley What Month Was Jesus Born In When Im Gone When I Can Hear My Title Clear When Jesus Comes When The Saints Go Marching In When The Trains Come Along Where Shall I Go Where You There Will The Circle Be Unbroken Wish Is In Heaven Settin Down Wish I Was In Heabum Settin Down Witness For My Lord Woke Up Dis Morning Wonder Where Is Good Ole Daniel Wrestling Jacob Wring My Hands And Cry You Better Get A Home In That Rock You May Bury Me In The East Yo Sins Are Gonna Find You Out Zekiel Saw The Wheel|
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.