A Cappella Friday: Walking

A cappella music (without instrumental accompaniment) is particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. As a poet (and an avocational musician), I am drawn to the similarities that poems and a cappella music have. Lyrical phrasing, meter, rhyming, and onomatopoeia mean so much to a cappella music, because it relies so heavily on the human vocal element.

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I woke up this morning with a song in my head that I hadn’t thought about in quite some time. This song is not an unusual one…if you are familiar with hymns, you’d probably say that you’ve heard this one countless times in church.^ In the Garden (And he walks with me) is a gospel song written by American songwriter Charles Austin Miles (1868 – 1946), a former pharmacist who served as editor and manager at Hall-Mack publishers for 37 years. The story goes that he wrote it in the winter of 1912, after sitting for a time in his basement, with no windows, meditating on a scripture passage…(John 20:1-18). The subject is Mary Magdalene, coming upon the tomb of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion. Miles was inspired by this event, and wrote the following poem.

In the Garden
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

Refrain

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Yes, this IS a poem. Miles set it to music later that same day and it went on to become one of the best known hymns of the era. It has been covered by Elvis, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Cash, and The Charlie Daniels Band.^^

Look at the rhyme scheme (a b c b). Check out the meter…if you know the hymn well, you can’t stop from swaying with the sing-song scansion in this. Further, the imagery of the garden over an entire day is there…dew on the roses, birds hush their singing, the night is falling. I feel the joy in the words, no music needed.

But…

I’ve a got a version of this poem/song that always improves my mood.

The group Acappella is an ongoing part of the ministry http://acappella.org/blog/ . The group has been in existence since the mid-eighties. They’ve had a number of personnel changes over the years. The version of In the Garden was part of a 1994 album, Hymns for all the World. This is not your grandmother’s gospel version. Check out the “walking” bass line throughout this recording, a very cool thing to add to this song, given the lyrics.

Give it a listen. You won’t be sorry.
This is a great musical setting for the poem, and the music serves a purpose to refresh the words.

See what I mean?

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^ I’m certain of my reasons for thinking of this song and the particular version on the video is my “go-to” version. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and I have faith that things beyond my control can be taken care of…Without preaching…we’ll leave it at that.

^^ I know, I was surprised too.

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