A City Called Heaven

Published by Roger Dean Publishing Company 
Catalog # 15/2593R
Traditional spiritual text in English
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3
Duration 4:45


 listen to A City Called Heaven

erformed by the ACDA Southern division Women's High
School Honor Choir, directed by Sigrid Johnson
recorded live March 2010

This is one of the most poignantly sad, yet beautiful spirituals I know, and a piece I had been wanting to arrange for quite some time. Yet a germinal idea for an arrangement just hadn’t quite hit me, so I kept tabling the project. During a stretch in December 2005 when I was working on some other spirituals for SATB I sat down with this piece again and began to try a few things at the piano, and the piece started to take shape.

The imagery of the title is what has always attracted me, yet it stands in such stark contrast to much of the text, which speaks of spiritual isolation (…“my father’s still walkin’ in sin. My brothers and sisters won’t own me…”).

This music tells of  an unfortunate period of our American history, yet also tells the universal story of the human will to survive. I’m also beginning to think we should call these songs what they really are, and what Anton Armstrong calls them, that is, slave songs. By doing so, we are forced to face the history behind them, and not just sing them mindlessly.

Further note: In general I think our new arrangements of spirituals should be a cappella, as that takes us closest to the origin of the music. Yet, I think there is some room for some accompanied spirituals as well.



I am a poor pilgrim of sorrow, I'm toss'd in dis wide world alone.
No hope have I for tomorrow,  I've started to make Heaven my home.
I am a poor pilgrim of sorrow, I'm toss'd in dis wide world alone.
No hope in dis world for tomorrow, 'less I start to make Heaven my home.

Some-times I am toss'd an' driven, Lawd,
some-times I don't know where to go.
I've heard of a city call'd Heaven,  
I've started to make it my home.

My mother has reach'd dat pure glory,
my father's still walkin' in sin.
My brothers an' sisters won't  own me,
be-cause I'm a-tryin' to get in.

(repeat chorus)




Click to See pdf Score
       (partial score)

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