Tune Information

Meter: Irregular with refrain
Incipit: 53322 33155 771
Key: g minor
Source: African American spiritual
Copyright: Public Domain


Go Down, Moses

When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go,
oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.

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The spiritual is in the call-and-response pattern: a leader sings the verses with some rhythmic freedom, either unaccompanied or with only light accompaniment; the entire congregation sings the phrases "Let my people go!" and the refrain, probably in harmony. That practice fits well for stanzas 1-4, but the entire group should sing all of stanza 5.

The harmonization by John W. Work, Jr. (b. Nashville, TN, 1872; d. Nashville, 1925), was originally published in The Story of the Jubilee Singers (1896). Work is well known for his pioneering studies of African American folk music and for his leadership in the performance of spirituals. He studied music at Fisk University in Nashville and classics at Harvard and then taught Latin, Greek, and history at Fisk from 1898 to 1923. Director of the Jubilee Singers at Fisk, Work also sang tenor in the Fisk Jubilee Quartet, which toured the country after 1909 and made commercial recordings. He was president of Roger Williams University in Nashville during the last two years of his life. Work and his brother Frederick Jerome Work (1879-1942) were devoted to collecting, arranging, and publishing African American slave songs and spirituals. They published two collections: New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1901) and Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987


Piano and Organ Duet

  • A Symphony of Spirituals for Piano and Organ
    Composer/Editor Joel Raney
    Published By: Hope Publishing Company (2001) pp. 2

Piano Solo

  • The Essential Collection for the Church Pianist II: 55 Timeless Classics
    Composer/Editors Jane Holstein; Larry Shackley
    Published By: Hope Publishing Company (2016) pp. 178
  • The Church Pianist Volume 30 Number 6 July August 2014: The Pianist's Companion for the Church Year
    Composer/Editors Larry Shackley; Anthony Giamanco
    Published By: Lorenz Publishing Company (2014) pp. 22
  • Shall We Gather at the River
    Composer/Editor John Leavitt
    Published By: Concordia Publishing House (2004) pp. 29
  • Spirituals for Piano Solo: 15 Inspirational Favorites
    Composer/Editor Kurt Kaiser
    Published By: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation (1997) pp. 16
  • World's Favorite Hymns, Spirituals & Sacred Songs

    Published By: Pearl Music (1993) pp. 22
  • Piano Jubilation: Fresh Piano Stylings
    Composer/Editor Teresa Patterson Wilhelmi
    Published By: Lillenas Publishing Company (1987) pp. 26
  • Go Down, Moses: Hymns We Play and Sing Book V
    Composer/Editor Myra Schubert
    Published By: Lillenas Publishing Company (1986) pp. 50
  • Spirituals for Piano
    Composer/Editor Calvin Taylor
    Published By: Ron Harris Music (1986) pp. 28
  • Bob Walters' Sacred Piano Solos: For Contests, Recitals & Ministries
    Composer/Editor Bob Walters
    Published By: Hope Publishing Company (1983) pp. 10
  • Famous Negro Spirituals
    Composer/Editor Hugo Frey
    Published By: Robbins Music Corporation (1924) pp. 18

Organ Solo

  • Spirituals for Organ: Artistic Expressions of Faith and Joy
    Composer/Editors Mark Hayes; Marvin J. Gaspard
    Published By: Lorenz Publishing Company (2016) pp. 7
  • King of Kings Volume 2: Organ Music of Black Composers, Past and Present
    Composer/Editors James Abbington; Fela Sowande
    Published By: G. I. A. Publications, Inc. (2009) pp. 38
  • Four Hymn-Tune Quodlbets for Organ
    Composer/Editor Hazel Hudson
    Published By: Stainer & Bell Ltd. (2004) pp. 8
  • Listen to the Lamb: The Organ Music of Adolphus Hailstork
    Composer/Editor Kevin J. Hildebrand
    Published By: Concordia Publishing House (2003) pp. 24
  • Laudate! Volume 6: Organ Music Based on the 100 Most Popular Hymns in Worship III and Gather
    Composer/Editor James W. Kosnik
    Published By: Concordia Publishing House (2001) pp. 24
  • Seven Reflections on African American Spirituals: For Organ
    Composer/Editor Richard Billingham
    Published By: Augsburg Fortress (1996) pp. 16
  • Preludes for Genesis
    Composer/Editor Alec Wyton
    Published By: Agape, A Division of Hope Publishing (1975) pp. 12

Harmonizations, Introductions, Descants, Intonations

  • Twenty-Five Organ Harmonizations Set II: Alternate Hymn Settings in Various Styles
    Composer/Editor Harold J. Owen
    Published By: GIA Publications, Inc. (2002) pp. 8
  • Let It Rip! At the Piano 2: Congregational Song Accompaniments Volume 2
    Composer/Editors Norma Aamodt-Nelson; Eric Vollen
    Published By: Augsburg Fortress (2000) pp. 198

Voices: Piano, Instrument and Voices

  • Spiritual Suite: Traditional Spirituals
    Composer/Editor Joseph Joubert
    Published By: Hindon Publications, Inc. (1995) pp. 7

Voices: Vocal Solo

  • Your Favorite Negro Spirituals: Arranged for Solo Voice with Piano

    Published By: Shawnee Press, Inc. (1938) pp. 8


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The Cyber Hymnal #7404
Text: When Israel Was in Egypt's Land
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Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #476
Text: When Israel Was in Egypt's Land
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Worship and Rejoice #618
Text: Go Down, Moses


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Include 5 pre-1979 instances
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