We Shall Walk in the Valley of Peace

This article first appeared in the September 2018 issue of our parish magazine.

We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace – trad spiritual, arr. Hogan (1957-2003)

2018 has been a year of remembrance with concerts to commemorate the centenary of the ending of the Great War reaching their climax in November. This was one of the pieces introduced for rehearsal in spring this year and performed by the Manchester Chorale in May 2018 in Bury at the museum of the Royal Fusiliers.

Loosely based on Psalm 34, this spiritual was arranged by Moses Hogan for four part harmony. The text is:

  • We shall walk through the valley in peace, shall walk in peace
  • We shall walk through the valley in peace
  • For Jesus, himself, shall be our leader
  • We shall walk through the valley in peace, shall walk in peace

 

  • We shall meet our loved ones over there, we’ll meet them there
  • We shall meet our loved ones over there
  • For Jesus, himself, shall be our leader
  • We shall walk through the valley in peace

 

  • There will be no more trials there, over there
  • There will be no more trials there, over there
  • For Jesus, himself, shall be our leader
  • We shall walk through the valley in peace, shall walk in peace

In August 2018 I attended the Sing for Pleasure summer school at Keele University. Whilst there, a fellow conducting student gave a short lecture on spirituals. He was clear that as these songs arose from oppression, they should, in his opinion, always be sung reverently and respectfully, in memory of those abducted and forced into a life of slavery in the UK as well as in the USA. They were also forcefully converted from Islam to Christianity. Their labour was hard and the days were long. Escapees, when caught – and they usually were – were punished by “hobbling”, where the front half of the foot was cut off with an axe. In this light, “We Shall Walk” becomes a song of acceptance that life is unalterable, and the only escape is death. With death comes freedom, and reunion with those that have gone before.

Similarly, troops of World War I were trapped in their trenches, working long hard hours. Escapees were punished by firing squad. Shell-shocked soldiers carried their own personal hells around inside their heads. Although all hoped for victory and a safe return home, for many millions the only sure escape was through death. With death would come freedom and peace of mind.

Have a listen to this recording of “We Shall Walk”, and remember all who have suffered at the hands of others through the centuries, and continue to do so today.

Carol P


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