Traditional Spiritual

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This is an African-American spiritual, a type of traditional song once referred to as a Negro spiritual. It is the product of pre-Civil War slaves and thus probably dates to the first half of the nineteenth century. Parts of its text were originally written in the slaves' dialect. The title, for instance, was given as "Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho." The slaves wrote these songs often to signal an escape attempt or simply to express their hope for freedom. Thus, the closing line of the refrain, "And the walls (of Jericho) came tumblin' down," signified more to them than what is usually derived from the Biblical verse that inspired it -- Joshua 6:15-21. The well-known melody is lively and rhythmic, arousing the kind of fervor that induces choral groups who typically sing the song to clap their hands and sway to the springy beat. The jaunty, spirited theme hardly sounds like the product of the pre-Civil War era, and would not sound out of place in a ragtime or even jazz musical from the early twentieth century. The closing portion of the tune, sung to the words quoted above, is its most memorable portion: the notes plunge emphatically and impart a glorious sense of collapse, of triumph.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186571
    2015 Acis Productions APL 08685
    2015 Roméo Records / Romeo Records RR 7311
    2013 ABC Classics 4807778
    2012 Mormon Tabernacle 5078531
    2012 Gothic Records 49279
    2011 Haenssler 98623
    2011 EMI Classics 5099908293923
    2010 Mormon Tabernacle 5038092
    2010 Ars Musici 232416
    2010 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 9671382
    2009 Clarion 935
    2009 EMI Music Distribution / Erato / Virgin Classics 5099996695
    2008 Ars Produktion 38041
    2008 EJD Records 166
    2008 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 346641
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921558
    2007 Aca Digital 20100
    2007 ABC Music 4766347
    2007 Rev-Ola Records CRREV 208
    2007 Roquiz Trio 6080
    2006 Cuneiform Records RUNE 241
    2006 Disques XXI 21460
    2006 Living Era 5622
    2006 Deja Vu 20
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000673602
    2006 Virgin Classics / Erato / Virgin 7243482132
    2005 McGraw Hill Glencoe
    2005 EMI Classics 56683
    2005 Tantara Records / Tantera 0305PHM
    2005 Angel Records / EMI Music Distribution 31542
    2005 Erato
    2005 Virgin / Virgin Classics 482133
    2005 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243586323
    2004 Lasting Impression Music / Lim 007
    2003 Gvc GVC 2004
    2003 Albany Music Distribution 587
    2002 Summit Records / Triumphonic 1063
    2001 ASV / ASV/Living Era CDAJS 244
    2000 Golden Music / Music Products GO 3820
    1999 Herald Records HAVPCD233
    1999 Frémeaux & Associés FA 168
    1998 Fleur De Son Classics 57929
    1997 Pearl GEMMCD 9264
    1995 DSB 1041
    1995 Turtle Creek Chorale 5
    1994 Well-Tempered Productions 5170
    1993 Pearl GEMMCD 9382
    1991 Argo 4308342
    1984 Angel Records / EMI Music Distribution CDC-47026
    Virgin 59616
    Moss Music Group 1113
    Arcadia Recordings 1995
    Memoir Classics 415
    EMI Classics 14128
    EMI Music Distribution
    Happy Days/Conifer 183
    Mark Custom Recording 3146