Four Spirituals for Flute Choir was dedicated to Francine Ross Pancost, Flute Choir Director. Sometimes referred to as Negro spirituals and dating back to the days of slavery, there are three basic categories of spirituals: Call and response , slow and melodic with expressive phrasing, and fast and rhythmic, often with syncopated rhythms. Songs were part of slaves’ daily lives and were sometimes used as a means of communicating secret messages about the Underground Railroad, rather than just for worship.
1. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child is slow and melodic, opening with a poignant alto flute solo, later joined by the bass flute in a duet. The piccolo provides a mournful line of counter melody in many of the tutti passages. In the era of slavery, it was common practice to sell children of slaves away from their parents. The song expresses the pain and despair of a child separated from his parents.
2. Elijah Rock is fast and rhythmic with the low flutes providing a syncopated melodic ostinato. There is some call and response between the low flutes and c-flutes, and the piccolo provides a counter melody with a gospel flavor.
3. Wade in the Water is also fast and rhythmic with a call and response section. The song urges runaway slaves to travel along the river bank and through the water to avoid detection by pursuing bloodhounds and the authorities.
4. Every Time I Feel the Spirit is fast and rhythmic with syncopated rhythms and a gospel flair.
Scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, alto (alternate C-flute part included), bass, and opt. contrabass flute. (12:00)