Wade in the water

Music: Trad. arr. Tony McDonald. Words: Trad. anon
SATB & piano
performance time approx 2m 00s
Range S: d' – a♭'' / A: g – c'' / T: e – g' / B: F – d'
Price code: C
Complexity: ***

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Wade in the Water is an African American spiritual that affirms belief in deliverance. The refrain “God's gonna trouble the water” sounds like a threat but is actually a promise: it derives from a traditional belief in the healing powers of water that had been ‘troubled’ (disturbed) by an angel — as described in the New Testament book of John, chapter 5, verse 4. The verses refer to the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, led by Moses, as described in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

The spiritual first appeared in print in New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1901).

Tony McDonald's jazz feel arrangement passes the melody between different groups of singers, and the piece builds through a series of key changes, dynamic contrasts, chromatic embellishment of the melody, and an increasingly active piano part. There is occasional use of divisi.

The recording is by the Choir of the First Unitarian Universalist Church, Columbus, Ohio.


Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children,
Wade in the water,
God's gonna trouble the water.

See that band all dressed in white,
God's gonna trouble the water,
The leader looks like an Israelite,
God's gonna trouble the water.

See that band all dressed in red,
God's gonna trouble the water,
It looks like the band that Moses led,
God's gonna trouble the water.


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