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31 October 2017

Post 563: 'OVER IN THE GLORYLAND' - FROM SAM MORGAN TO MARLA DIXON

Over in the Gloryland is one of the most famous tunes in our repertoire. It is a spiritual and is said to have been written by James Acuff and Emmett Dean in 1905. The reason why we all play it today is that we have been influenced by the recording of it made by the great Sam Morgan Band in 1927.

You can hear that recording:

The song has a Verse of 16 Bars (often sung with words beginning 'If you get to heaven before I do,...') and then a Chorus of 24 bars (usually beginning 'Over in the Gloryland,....').

I used to play this song with a band that went through Verse and Chorus every time. This felt right to me because the Verse is like a declamation by one person and then the Chorus is a chance for other people to join in.

However, guesting with another band, I found their tactic was to play the Verse only once and then stick on the Chorus - over and over. I was not very happy with this, as the effect is so limited and repetitive, harmonically as well as melodically.

So I checked the original Sam Morgan recording. He plays: Verse → Chorus → Chorus → Verse → Chorus → Verse → Chorus. In other words, the Chorus four times and the Verse three times. This works well and provides variety.
I decided also to check out the storming version from March 2015, when The Shotgun Jazz Band got together with Tuba Skinny. You can enjoy this memorable and historic performance
This runs for almost seven and a half minutes, and yet it is always exciting, even though it is a tune some musicians don't enjoy playing. They complain that its melody is so repetitive and that it uses essentially only the three most common chords.

But these two great bands show what can be fashioned from such simple material.

You will find they play Verse → Chorus every time.

That's good enough for me. So that's how I think we should all play it.

Specifically, here's what they do:
Verse (ensemble) → Chorus (ensemble) → Verse (vocal) → Chorus (vocal) →Verse (trombones) → Chorus (trombones) → Verse (reeds) → Chorus (reeds) → Verse (percussion) → Chorus (percussion) → Verse (piano) → Chorus (piano) → Verse (basses) → Chorus (basses) → Verse (vocal) → Chorus (vocal) → Verse (ensemble) → Chorus (ensemble).

By the way, if you need a lead-sheet for this song, you may find one on the site of the great and generous Lasse Collin: