Down by the Riverside

Performer and production credits:
Karol Bennett, soprano; Leone Buyse, flute; Hannah Holman, cello; Susan Oltsman Koozin, narrator; Tricia Park, violin; Rod Waters, piano; Michael Webster, clarinet; Blake Wilkins, percussion.
Bill Klemm, videographer and editor; Kate Dawson, director.


TEXT
Gonna lay down my heavy load  
Down by the riverside  
Down by the riverside  
Down by the riverside  
Gonna lay down my heavy load  
Down by the riverside  
Ain't gonna study war no more.  
refrain  
I ain't gonna study war no more,  
I ain't gonna study war no more,  
Study war no more.  
I ain't gonna study war no more,  
I ain't gonna study war no more,  
Study war no more.  
 
Gonna lay down my sword and shield  
Down by the riverside  
Down by the riverside  
Down by the riverside  
Gonna lay down my sword and shield  
Down by the riverside  
Ain't gonna study war no more.  

Down by the Riverside is a traditional Afro-American spiritual. Many spirituals were created at camp meetings, where several hundred slaves would gather at night and hear the gospel read by a traveling black preacher. The sermon gradually built in intensity, as the preacher became more impassioned and the congregation became more vocal, until someone would finally break into song. Some songs were quickly forgotten, but others were passed on from generation to generation, creating a timeless legacy born out of despair and suffering.

Frederic Rzewski's North American Ballads for solo piano were written in 1978. Down by the Riverside begins with a straightforward presentation of the spiritual melody. Rzewski then develops fragments of the melody in intricate ways, creating an imaginative panorama of shifting moods.

In Musiqa's performance, we will begin by singing two verses of the spiritual. We will then segue into an excerpt from Rzewski's piano work, showing how the composer elaborates on the folk tune.

Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) was born in Westfield, Massachusetts. He studied at Harvard and Princeton. However, a trip to Italy in 1960 changed his musical outlook: There he met many avant-garde musicians, with whom he began collaborating. He didn't return to the United States until 1971. In 1977, he moved back to Europe, and still teaches at the Royal Music Conservatory in Belgium. His compositions are known for having overtly political overtones: One of his most famous works, Coming Together, is a setting of letters by a prisoner killed in the Attica prison riots. His music also often includes improvisation —passages not strictly written out by the composer that may be "composed" on the spot by the performer. A world-class pianist, Mr. Rzewski has toured extensively performing his own music.

Featured Work Other Recommended Works
Four North American Ballads - CRI 653 The People United Will Never Be Defeated - Hyperion CDA670
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