Monday, February 01, 2016

"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" -- a gospel song for February's Prairieland-Clayville jam sessions

Blast email I sent out this morning. -- pe

A song and a schedule for the Prairieland-Clayville Academy of Music jam sessions in February --

Here's our schedule (please note I have to change the date of our third meeting from the third Thursday to Tuesday, Feb. 16, in order to accommodate another meeting at the church -- hope it doesn't inconvenience you). So the revised schedule is:

-- Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church, 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.

-- Saturday, Feb. 6, 10 a.m. to noon, Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

-- Tuesday, Feb. 16, 7-9 p.m. at the church.

Last spring Dan brought us lead sheets for an old gospel song called "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and we played it a couple of times. Let's play it again to kick off Tuesday's session, then go around the circle calling tunes.

I posted a couple of video clips to Hogfiddle at back in the spring, and here's another one -- by the Gaither family of Southern gospel singing fame -- that shows the song being sung like it ought to be sung:

The video features Bill & Gloria Gaither performing "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms" (joined by Buddy Greene on harmonica, Jeff & Sheri Easter and Charlotte Ritchie).

"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" has become a bluegrass gospel standard, but it has quite a pedigree -- it dates back to the very beginnings of gospel music in the 1800s. According to the fount of all human knowledge (Wikipedia), it was published in 1887 with music by Anthony J. Showalter and lyrics by Showalter and Elisha Hoffman. Showalter Music Co., of Dalton, Ga., was a major publisher of "new book" shape-note gospel tunebooks that shaped the emerging genre well into the 20th century -- and, some would argue, beyond. Adds Wikipedia:

Showalter said that he received letters from two of his former pupils saying that their wives had died. When writing letters of consolation, Showalter was inspired by the phrase in the Book of Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

For all of that, as the Gaithers' session attests, it is not a dirge.

Lead sheets with dulcimer tab at:

There's something really very cool that didn't make it into the written dulcimer tab. As you listen to the group on the Gaithers' show again, notice how some of the vocalists are singing "Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus" while the others are singing "Leaning, leaning" in half-notes. That kind of thing is sometimes called Arkansas counterpoint, and a lot of people like to sing it that way, especially down South. We can do it too.

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