Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for Wind Quintet

Composer
Wallis Willis
Arranger
Difficulty
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
Duration
3 minutes
Genre
Jazz music
Instrumentation
Wind quintet
Instrumental parts
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An arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot arranged for classical Wind Quintet.

A great chart for your next performance, and a challenging arrangement to introduce jazz styles to your ensemble.

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is a historic American Spiritual song. The earliest known recording was in 1909, by the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. It is also the anthem of the England national Rugby Union team.

In 2002, the Library of Congress honored the song as one of 50 recordings chosen that year to be added to the National Recording Registry. It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was written by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory in what is now Choctaw County, near the County seat of Hugo, Oklahoma sometime before 1862. He was inspired by the Red River, which reminded him of the Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah’s being taken to heaven by a chariot (2 Kings 2:11). Many sources claim that this song and "Steal Away" (also composed by Willis) had lyrics that referred to the Underground Railroad, the freedom movement that helped blacks escape from Southern Slavery to the North and Canada.

Alexander Reid, a minister at the Old Spencer Academy, Choctaw boarding school, heard Willis singing these two songs and transcribed the words and melodies. He sent the music to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Jubilee Singers popularized the songs during a tour of the United States and Europe.

The song enjoyed a resurgence during the 1960s Civil Rights struggle and the folk revival; it was performed by a number of artists. Perhaps the most famous performance during this period was that by Joan Baez during the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival.

Oklahoma State Senator, Judy Eason McIntyre from Tulsa, Oklahoma proposed a bill nominating "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" as the Oklahoma State official gospel song in 2011. The bill was co-sponsored by the Oklahoma State Black Congressional Caucus. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed the bill into law on May 5, 2011, at a ceremony at the Oklahoma Cowboy Hall of Fame; making the song the official Oklahoma State Gospel Song.

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