That was indeed spirit-warming! Thanks to this amazing gospel band who never failed to move us with their stunning performances. Every singing session with them is inspiration-filled and truly soul-piercing.
The song that we just enjoyed singing with the Gaither Vocal Band is entitled “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It’s a traditional Christian hymn believed to have been around in the early 1900s. Although its main roots remain unclear up to the present, it is believed that the song has been developed from plenty of gospel songs with a similar title. “When the Saints Are Marching In” (1896) and “When the Saints March In for Crowning” (1908) are some of the examples. In 1937, Luther G. Presley wrote the lyrics to “When the Saints Go Marching In” and Virgil O. Stamps wrote the music. Presley, a music teacher who hails from Arkansas, has been credited with writing over 1,100 hymns.
As different musicians have recorded their respective versions of the song, the lyrics have been modified many times. Yet, the traditional lyrics contain many apocalyptic images and hinting the idea of Judgement Day based on the book of Revelation.
On the day of judgment, seven angles will sound seven trumpets. Each sound carries different warnings to sinners from God. Furthermore, after each sound, there would be blood, fire, and stars falling from the sky.
Meanwhile, the lyrics “I want to be in that number” refer to the details of the prophecy in Revelation wherein 144,000 people were said to be God’s redeemed servants. Those people would be the ones who would make it into heaven.
From Traditional Hymn to Jazz Funeral Tune
Considered a well-known and catchy piece in the gospel history, “When the Saints Go Marching In” has gone through a dynamic evolution process. It has infiltrated various genres across the musical field. Since its primary release, many artists began recording it decade after decade. An early cover of the song made was that of Fats Domino’s rock and roll version. Dolly Parton was among the country artists who also covered the hymn. Meanwhile, new wave artists Tears for Fears rendered the song in an alternative style.
Despite these numerous recordings, “When the Saints Go Marching In” became widely used in many in funeral marches. More specifically, it gained prominence within jazz funerals in New Orleans, Louisiana. That’s after Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra has recorded it on May 13, 1938.
Live performance of “When the Saints Go Marching In” / Photo: Screen grabbed from Youtube
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Dolly Parton, Gaither Vocal Band, Louis Armstrong, Luther G. Presley, Virgil O. Stamps, When the Saints Go Marching In