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Hall Johnson Ain’t Got Time to Die

  • Spiritual, arranged by Hall Johnson Ain’t Got Time to Die
Recorded in performance on Sunday, September 21, 2014, at All Saints Church, Pasadena, California

Notes from James

I’ve been privileged to conduct many fine performances of Hall Johnson’s “Ain’t Got Time to Die” with the All Saints choirs over the years, both in concert and in liturgy. I used to conduct it significantly faster, which arguably is easier to feel the momentum and drive of the piece.

In this September start to our 2014–2015 season, Coventry Choir’s repertoire preparation is very much focused on rhythmic integrity in various styles — from Central American music to spirituals to Bruckner’s Requiem. To sustain Hall Johnson’s arrangement at that more deliberate tempo requires the concentrated intent of every chorister. I believe the power of Coventry Choir’s September 21 offering of this piece is a result of that intensive preparation, singing from memory, fervently expressing the text, and of course, the brilliance of tenor soloist, Ben Cortez.

I’m not a big fan of applause after anthems in liturgy, but the congregation’s response at both 9:00 and 11:15 was so organic to the experience. How could one remain seated?