This beloved spiritual is full of traditional images and code words referencing the Underground Railroad and the escape from slavery. The Jordan River was most often code for the Ohio River, which had to be crossed to get to the free states. Many of the references to water in spirituals also refer to the practice of walking in the rivers and streams at night. That way, the tracking dogs that were used to hunt them down would lose the scent.
NOTES ON PREPARATION AND PERFORMANCE
Make sure that the melody always predominates, even when the descant comes in at the end. Feel the rhythms organically rather than mechanically. Pay close attention to the dynamic contrasts.
Evr’y time I feel the spirit movin’ in my heart, I will pray.
Upon the mountain, my Lord spoke
Out of his mouth came fire and smoke.
All around me, look so shine, ask my Lord if all was mine
Jordan River run right cold
chill the body, not the soul
Ain’t but one train on this track, run to heaven and right back