Way Over in Beulah Lan'. (Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual). By Kris Kropff. Text. Published by Heritage Music Press (LO.30-2268H).
Renowned choral conductor and educator Andre J. Thomas has crafted a book that the conductor of any choral ensemble-be it church, high school, university, or professional-will want close at hand when preparing to program any concert spiritual. Understanding the Spiritual, the first of the book's two sections, includes an exploration of the beginnings of the spiritual, its role in society and its transition into art music. Issues of interpretation-text, diction, rhythm and tempo-are addressed in the second section, Performing the Spiritual. In addition to interviews with noted conductors Dr. Anton Armstrong and Prof. Judith Willoughby as to matters of performance and selection, the centerpiece of this section is Dr. Thomas's personal reflections on several spiritual arrangements, including his rehearsal techniques (with specific examples and measure-number references to the included scores), as well as an insightful look into his decisions of interpretation.