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Origins: So High

Related threads:
Lyr Req: Rock-a My Soul (38)
Lyr Req: You Must Come In at the Door (17)


davidneale 06 Sep 03 - 05:57 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 06 Sep 03 - 09:08 PM
davidneale 07 Sep 03 - 07:32 AM
davidneale 07 Sep 03 - 08:03 AM
W y s i w y G ! 07 Sep 03 - 09:24 AM
davidneale 07 Sep 03 - 11:45 AM
Q 07 Sep 03 - 01:29 PM
W y s i w y G ! 07 Sep 03 - 02:56 PM
Joe Offer 07 Sep 03 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,ADD: YOU MUS' COME IN BY AN' THRO' DE LAMB 13 Apr 05 - 10:04 AM
W y s i w y G ! 13 Apr 05 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,WYS 13 Apr 05 - 01:50 PM
Azizi 13 May 07 - 05:07 AM
Azizi 13 May 07 - 05:28 AM
Azizi 13 May 07 - 05:42 AM
Azizi 13 May 07 - 05:56 AM
Q 13 May 07 - 01:37 PM
Q 13 May 07 - 04:31 PM
Q 13 May 07 - 10:02 PM
GUEST,Picaraza 28 Feb 08 - 04:18 PM
Azizi 28 Feb 08 - 04:24 PM
GUEST,Old Goat 25 Jan 12 - 09:37 AM
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Subject: Origins: So High
From: davidneale
Date: 06 Sep 03 - 05:57 PM

"So High" is a rousing gospel number written, I believe, by Jimmy Jones of the Harmonizing Four. I'm trying to find the earliest recording of the number. LaVern Baker recorded a track called "So High, So Low" in 1959, but this is NOT the same as "So High." I have been unable to find a recording by the Harmonizing Four, so perhaps it was recorded by someone else, other than Elvis Presley, who made his own version in 1966.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 06 Sep 03 - 09:08 PM

The Kingston Trio recorded "So Hi"

From the album with this description:

The Kingston Trio: Their Greatest Hits and Finest Performances

So Hi (Traditional; arranged by Reynolds-Shane-Stewart) With its unbridled hootenanny high spirits, "So Hi" brings this collection to a fitting close. An adaptation by Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane and John Stewart of the old spiritual "Heaven Is So High," it's a reminder that The Kingston Trio's contributions to folk were hardly limited to performing. The Trio's penchant for unearthing forgotten or new material, and their clever yet tasteful arrangements also were hallmarks of their success. And as the 61 recordings collected in this set prove, few folk artists have created such a joyous, long-lived body of work.


So Hi
Chorus:
My heaven is so high, you can't get over it.
So low, you can't get under it.
So wide, you can't get around it.
You gotta come in at the door.
Tell those children, yeah, tell 'em now.
You gotta come in at the door.
Don't stand and whisper, just show 'em how.
You gotta come in at the door.

Chorus

Children of Israel, sing and shout
You gotta come in at the door.
You know the gates of heaven can't keep you out.
You gotta come in at the door.

Chorus

Now if you're gonna head for the promised land,
You gotta come in at the door.
Just step right up and shake his hand.
You gotta come in at the door.

Chorus


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: davidneale
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 07:32 AM

That's a great lead! The words are very similar to those with which i am familiar and fit the tune, too. Thanks very much!


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: davidneale
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 08:03 AM

I've just found a number by The Golden Gate Quartet, recorded in April 1947, called "High, Low and Wide." Same song as "So High"!

http://www.alphamusic.de/clip/6542957/58.mp3


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: W y s i w y G !
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 09:24 AM

The above attribution "Traditional" in this case probably means, "It was originally a Negro spiritual but we cleaned it up and restyled it and claim credit and all future royalties for it as of such and such date." :~)

Particularly when a song enters the documented gospel "tradition" by way of an early black gospel recording, chances are it has been based on a spirituals melody and a complete or fragmented/recombined spirituals texts... and white folks composing later gospel music also often relied heavily on melodies and commonly-used verses from spirituals. Melodies would be reused for many songs, too, both the original spirituals and later "composed" songs drwn from them.

IMO, what becomes unique (marking a new "origins" beginning) is the stylistic stamp each performer puts on the piece by their arrangement and delivery. In my sound collection, for instance, I can compare many versions of one song. You can look at recording dates and see three or four distinct grandmothers to all of the later versions, with each later version obviously being imitative of one of those grandmother versions. When we're talking about music, we can't just look at the text and documentation--- we have to look at the feel of the song, especially in gospel, and especially in early black gospel which by its nature is expressive, not descriptive, of a spiritual/religious sensibility. So "origin" may have to mean a narrow set of song evolutions particular to whatever song is in question.

There are several factors that complicate tracing anything back to origins as a spiritual. First, we have only a very few of the many that existed, in written form.... these sprang up spontaneously on every plantation, and only a relatively few were transcribed at the time. But they lived on in memory and grew up and out into other documented songs, after slave times were well over. Also, titling is arbitrary-- original spirituals were used as worksongs with as many verses added each time as workers could dream up.... topics could be shifted and combined in odd ways and the "title" under which any day's version was documented could have been any recurring line. Even when a spiritual was sung in a strictly religious setting, there would usually be two contrasting or complementary themes running through it, one in the verse(s) and one in the refrain. Sometimes three themes-- one in the call part of the verse, one in the response part, and one in the refrain. A title could emerge from any of these, and a lot of songs are known variously by more than one title. Finally, the dialect of the titling-- in an effort to be historically faithful to the dialect of whoever a collector got a version from, the title will not necessarily be in today's English. "You Must Come in at the Door" could be:
"Must Come in at the Door"
"Mus' Come in at the Door"
"Mus' Come in at the Do' "
... or anything else! :~)

So a text search in researching any spiritual is problematic.


Here's another version of this song though:

SPIRITUAL?

There is a published spiritual called "YOU MUS' COME IN BY AN' THRO' DE LAMB" but I do not know if the text or tune are similar because I have neither a recording nor the songbook my records indicate for it ("My Songs").

Biblically, of course (we are talking about a gospel song), the origin would be about entering heaven by the strait (narrow way), Jesus being the gate as he describes in his role as shepherd guarding the door to the sheepfold.... shepherds would sleep across the opening to the sheep pen, keeping the sheep in and predators out.... no need to build a gate since in those days, if there were sheep in the fold, there would be a shepherd present, and gate duty would go to the low man or boy on the totem pole. (Sorry about the mixed metaphors!) Each spiritual tended to be a very elegant compilation and integration of many Biblical images and concepts, using just a few words to cover quite a lot of reading or preaching the slaves had been exposed to, and whatever reflections people had experienced from what they had heard and tried to live by. You can think of them as the icons or stained glass of their time-- using paperless artistic media to deliver and preserve information and guidance among people who did not tend to read the written word.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: davidneale
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 11:45 AM

Thank you, Susan, thank you, Susan.

Of course there are problems when searching for the "origins" of a song and it is a very delicate and sensitive issue. But that's not what I'm doing! I want to find the earliest recording of this (and other) songs and there can be no doubt that there was at some time or another a "first" recording, irrespective of the origins of a song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Q
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 01:29 PM

Other titles: "Open Door;" "My God Is So High."
These are titles of two spirituals (dates unknown) that belong to this group. The song predates the 1940s and the singing groups we remember, but may be 20th c. and not a true Negro spiritual.

As WYSIWYG pointed out, there are so many variant titles that the first recording will be difficult to find.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: W y s i w y G !
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 02:56 PM

davidneale, I understand.... when people come later searching up "origins" they may well be looking for the origin of the song, not just the earliest recording..... sometimes information is posted because it's pertinent to a larger issue than the fisrt inquiry might indicate. Around here we tend to look as far back as we can. It would not surprise me atr all if Malcolm Douglas visited a thread like this and pointed out the Child Ballad some Negro slave may have overheard which then became a spiritual and then became your gospel song! :~) When one asks "origins" questions, it can be a long road to the short answer! :~)

~S~


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Sep 03 - 04:01 PM

Some versions, notably the one by Peter, Paul and Mary, combine this song with "Rock My Soul In the Bosom of Abraham". Is this combination a modern invention, or traditional?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: GUEST,ADD: YOU MUS' COME IN BY AN' THRO' DE LAMB
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 10:04 AM

YOU MUST COME IN BY AND THROUGH THE LAMB
Traditional Negro Spiritual originally titled YOU MUS' COME IN BY AN' THRO' DE LAMB, as sung by Opera Ebony on "Opera Ebony Sings Spirituals" (Available through CDBaby).

CHO:

My God is so high, you can't get over Him,
He's so low, you can't get under Him,
He's so wide, you can't get around Him--
You must come in by and through the Lamb.

One day as I was walkin'
Along the heavenly* road,
My Savior spoke unto me,
And He filled my heart with love.

I tell you fellow members,
Things have been mighty strange!
The Lord was good to Israel
And His ways don't ever change.


* sometimes sung as "heav'n-lee" and sometimes as "heav'n-lye"

SH

@spiritual


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Subject: Add: YOU MUS' COME IN BY AN' THRO' DE LAMB
From: W y s i w y G !
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 12:22 PM

Back to the Biblical origins of this song, not only is there the wonderful imagery of Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold, but also, at the same time as He is cast as the protecting shepherd, He is said to be a lamb among lambs-- fully divine, fully human.

Also in this song, perhaps more centrally, we have the sense of God enclosing us, from Psalm 139:

"You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me*. Such knowledge is too wonderful** for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

[SO HIGH:] If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

[SO LOW:] ... if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

[SO WIDE:] If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you."

* in the original Hebrew, these words would have had the sense of "to form, fashion, delineate."

** incomprehensible, extraordinary


So, theologically, the song is about a response to one's sense of the measure of God-- that one is drawn to this God and that the approach is through the gate, the Lamb.

~S~


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Subject: Add: YOU MUST COME IN BY AND THROUGH THE LAMB
From: GUEST,WYS
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 01:50 PM

So with all the foregoing in mind, here's our version. It's long enough that we'll probably songlead it in odd or even verses as suits the occasion.

~S~


==============================================================

YOU MUST COME IN BY AND THROUGH THE LAMB
Traditional Negro Spiritual, as sung by Opera Ebony on CD: "Opera Ebony Sings Spirituals." Originally titled "You Mus' Come in By an' Thro' de Lamb" or possibly "Heaven Is So High." There have been numerous adaptations by folk, black gospel, and country artists. This version adapted, edited, additional verses, and arranged (c) 2005 Susan O. Hinton for The Good News-Goodtime Band.

REFRAIN:
My God is so high, you can't get over Him,
He's so low, you can't get under Him,
He's so wide, you can't get around Him--
You must come in by and through the Lamb.

1. Good morning, brother pilgrim,
Say, tell me where you're bound?
Oh tell me if you're heading
For the joy and praising ground.

2. As Jesus taught the people
(By the Sea of Galilee),
Said, "I'm the gate to the sheepfold,
And you must come in-a by Me."

3. No matter where I wandered—
And I've wandered everywhere—
Yet even in the darkest night,
My Lord was waiting there.

4. One day as I was walkin'
Along the heavenly road,
My Savior spoke unto me,
And He filled my heart with love.

5. Don't you hear me, brother pilgrim?
Keep it well in mind.
Just lift your heart and don't look back,
And to the bright door climb.

6. And when you follow Jesus
Up to the promised land,
Don't hang back shy and quiet-
Step up and shake-a His hand.

7. Oh, some folks go by water,
And some folks go by land;
But we'll get there by the grace of God,
So let's go hand in hand.

8. You got to tell your neighbors,
You better tell them now!
Don't look aside or whisper-
Bes' you show them how.

9. With Jesus as our Savior,
Can't help but sing and shout!
You know the gates of heaven
Can't ever keep you out.

SH

@spiritual


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 07 - 05:07 AM

Here's the version I learned in my childhood [Atlantic City, New Jersey 1950s] and continue singing to this day:

MY LORD IS SO HIGH

[chorus]
My Lord is so high-
You can't get over Him.
So low-
You can't under Him.
So wide-
You can't get around Him.
You must come in at the door.

[verse]
Some people go by wa-ter.
Some people go by land.
But if
you want
to go to heaven.
Well, you must go hand in hand.

[chorus]

-snip-

I can't remember any more verses of this song. I have a good recollection for the verses of other early gospel {spirituals}? but I can't remember any more but this one verse.

I always sing this song {at home and not professionally} before singing the song "Don't Miss That Train". Maybe that is because these songs were combined at my church, but I really can't recall whether they were or not. The fixed order of these songs in my private concert may reflect the way I learned these songs. I always sing "My Lord Is So High" and then, immediately after the repeat of its chorus, sing "Don't Miss That Train". [See my next post in this thread for the lyrics to Don't Miss That Train" as I recall them].

Here's my take on the meaning of "My Lord is so High":
The lyrics of this song are based on the widespread Christian theological belief that the only way that anyone can get to heaven is through Jesus. Jesus is both "the Lord" & "the door" referred to in this song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 07 - 05:28 AM

Here's the words as I remember them to the African American gospel? spiritual? "Don't Miss That Train"

DON'T MISS THAT TRAIN

[chorus]
Don't miss that train.
Don't miss that train, child.
DOn't miss that train.
Gotta be ready when they call your name.

Don't miss that train.
Don't miss that train, child.
DOn't miss that train.
Gotta be ready when they call your name.

[Verse 1]
Jesus is the conductor.
Ticket in my hand
Promised mother I would meet her
when it pours into the promised land.

chorus

[repeat song, each time substituting another noun for "mother" such as "father", "sister", "brother", "pastor"]

-snip-

In this song the first word "train" in that chorus is elongated to "tray-a-a-a-ain-ain". [with "ain" rhyming with the English word "rain"] The "a" here is like the "a" in the English word "day" and not "ah" sound [which, it seems to me anyway, is the usual way we African Americans pronounce the word "a". For example, in African American children's jump rope counting rhymes "a one, a two, a three, a four", this line is almost always pronounced "ah one, ah two, ah three, ah four"].

The second word "train" in the chorus of "Don't Miss That Train" is elongated to "tray-ain" [pronounced as indicated above].

Also, the word child is elongated to chi-ild [the "chi" rhyming with the English word "why" and the "ild" rhyming with the English words "mild", which of course is the regular way the English word "child" is said.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 07 - 05:42 AM

I forgot to mention that we pronounced the third "train" in the song "Don't Miss That Train" the same way we pronounced the first word train.

"We" here is the people who taught me the song [and me too].


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 07 - 05:56 AM

I'm not doing this on purpose to lengthen this thread-and with full recognition that this is basically off-topic, it occurs to me that I should explain that the last word "train" in the song "Don't Miss That Train" isn't elongated, but is pronounced "train" which rhymes with "main" which kinda sorta rhymes with the word "name" which is the last word in that song's chorus.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Q
Date: 13 May 07 - 01:37 PM

The spiritual is found in these books:
Dann, Hollis, ed., 1924. Fifty-eight Spirituals for Choral Use. C. C. Birchard. Very Scarce.
The title in this book is "Open Door."

Johnson, Hall, 1930. The Green Pastures Spirituals, arr.for voice and piano. 40pp., 4to. Carl Fisher Inc. NY. Sheet music from the two-act Broadway play. Scarce.
The title used is My God Is So High.

So far, not found in older collections that I have seen.
Although sung currently (Azizi, above), surprisingly it is not found in Delores Carpenter, gen. ed., 2001, African American Heritage Hymnal, GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Q
Date: 13 May 07 - 04:31 PM

The song's popularity may come from the works of the composer and arranger, Noah F. Ryder:
1939,"Modern Spiritual Arrangement Series for Mixed Voices," Handy Bros. Music Co., NY
Title used is "My Lord Is So High."
His arrangements are much used by choirs and choral groups.

Or, more recently: Moses Hogan, choral director (Arrangements at Amazon).
Title used is "My God Is So High."

Willie Pickens, jazz pianist made a fine arrangement of the song; "Jazz Spirit," vol. 1.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Q
Date: 13 May 07 - 10:02 PM

"Don't Miss that Train," 1950, by Sister Wynona Carr. Discussed in Djedje, Jacqueline Cogdell, 1993, American Music vol. 11, no. 4, "Los Angeles Composers of African American Gospel Music: The First Generations," pp. 412-457, University of Illinois Press.

On line through JSTOR to participating libraries.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: GUEST,Picaraza
Date: 28 Feb 08 - 04:18 PM

I've been researching some roots reggae lyrics that use the "So High" chorus. By roots, I mean religious Rastafari music.

"Fire (Is the Desire)" by Justin Hinds
----------------------------------------

Hinds was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Hinds is an incredible songwriter known for his use of Jamaican folk sayings and biblical parable. This song was recorded ca. 1978-79

The fire is burning
People are yearning
In this time, In this time, In this time
(Fire is burning)
The fire is so hot you can't get close to it.
(Fire is burning)
The flame is so high that you can't get above it.
(Fire is burning)
The sparks are so wide that you can't get around it.
(Fire is burning).
The heat is so deep you can't under it.
(Fire is burning)

"Stone" by Prince Alla
-----------------------
Prince Alla lived for a time with Emmanuel Edwards' Bobo Shanti settlement in the Trenchtown slum in Kingston. (ca. 1975-77). Bobo Shanti is a Rastafarian sect/faith that draws on traditions in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

I man saw a stone
Just a come to mash down Rome
Dread, dread stone
Just a come to mash down Rome
To mash down Rome
To mash down Rome

They can't run
No, I know that they can't hide
For that stone was so big and it so wide
And it so low, don't you know,
They can't get under it
And it so high, Babylon,
You can't get over it
Get over it
Get over it

Presumedly, the "So High" spiritual was brought to Jamaica by (American)Protestant missionaries.


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Feb 08 - 04:24 PM

GUEST,Picaraza, thanks for posting those lyrics.

Please consider joining Mudcat. Membership is free and easy to do. Just click on the Membership tap on the top of this page, near the far right corner and follow those instructions.

I hope that you will post other examples of religious Rastafari music and other Jamaican music on Mudcat either as a guest or a member.

Positive vibrations!

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: So High
From: GUEST,Old Goat
Date: 25 Jan 12 - 09:37 AM

Check out a 1930's movie Green Pastures. A black chorus sings about one and a half verses of So High. Beautiful. Great flick too, no doubt considered racist today. They show it from time to time on TCM.


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