“Down to the River to Pray” (also known as “Down in the River to Pray,” “Down in the Valley to Pray,” and “The Good Old Way”) is a 19th-century American folk hymn variously attributed as an African-American spiritual/slave song, Appalachian song, and gospel song. In recent years, it was popularized in the 2000 motion picture, “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” and by folk/bluegrass performer Alison Kraus.
In this arrangement, the first three presentations, or verses, of the pentatonic tune employ simple, traditional harmony and limited instrumentation, evoking the simplicity of folk-singing style. Verse 4 is characterized by a direct key change up a fourth (from concert Eb to Ab major) and more active harmonies. After a short, two-bar modulation up one more step, the final verse begins with rising parallel harmonies under the melody in trumpet 1, and continues with more contemporary harmonies. The piece concludes with a simple “Amen”-like ending.
View a performance by the Island City Brass Quintet, Wilmington, Illinois.
Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba) — $12.99