Balm in Gilead




Complexity Level: medium - some independence in the parts

Parts: SSATB and solo

Genre: spiritual

Deets: G major 4/4

This spiritual is simple and exquisitely beautiful. I first heard it as a setting by William Dawson, and although I'm not a religious person it moved me deeply. You know how some songs just grab you and wont let go?

I've arranged it several times. The first time I just arranged it on the spot at choir rehearsal - I'm sure you can see how easily this could be done: in the chorus - with a descant of mostly parallel thirds above the tune, an echo of both the tune and this descant - offset by two beats, and a bass=line of root notes using just I and V.  You could add a middle line of anything missing if you are super keen. And then "oooh" with the simplest of backing chords for the verses.

In my second version, I kept the simple harmonic structure and filled it out for 9 parts - it sounded like ringing bells. My darling community choir Voices in the Wilderness performed it with quartet Time Sweetened Honey and soprano soloist Bek Nelson.

I recently rearranged the song for my little gospel group and this is the version I'm sharing today. Because the song's simplicity is such an integral part of the piece I kept the diatony and kept the feeling of echoing to create movement in the chorus.

As you can see from the robes we are a little tongue in cheek - but our love of gospel music is absolutely genuine. The lovely young tenor is Matthew Lykos and the gorgeous embellishments are his own.  Isn't he stunning? I didn't put any interpretation markings on the sheet music - I knew Matthew would do a beautiful job of deciding on, and leading us in his own feeling for the song.