Dr. André J. Thomas

conductor composer author

Tallahassee Community Chorus 2013

Tallahassee Community Chorus 2013

“Wonderful for both its historical and performance enhancing efforts, Way Over in Beulah Lan' should be added to every music directors library.”

 Renowned choral conductor Andre J. Thomas has crafted a book that the conductor of any choral ensemble—be it church, high school, university, or professional—will want close at hand when preparing to program any concert spiritual. Understanding the Spiritual, the first of the book’s two sections, includes an exploration of the beginnings of the spiritual, its role in society, and its transition into art music. This section also includes a study of the contents and significance of four early collections of spiritual transcriptions and a look at more than 35 arrangers who cultivated the concert spiritual. Organized chronologically, this material moves beyond mere biography to an exploration of their individual approach to arranging and how this impacts the interpretation of their works. 

Issues of interpretation—text, diction, rhythm, and tempo—are addressed in the second section, Performing the Spiritual. In addition to interviews with noted conductors Dr. Anton Armstrong and Prof. Judith Willoughby as to matters of performance and selection, the centerpiece of this section is Dr. Thomas’s personal reflections on several spiritual arrangements, including Moses Hogan’s Ride On, King Jesus, and his own Swing Down, Chariot. These reflections include his rehearsal techniques (with specific examples and measure-number references to the included scores), as well as an insightful look into his decisions of interpretation. This seminal work concludes with a list of over 500 arrangements, organized by arranger and including title, voicing, vocal ranges, accompaniment, publisher, copyright date, and catalog number. 

Practical, accessible, personable, warm, and heartfelt - just as you would expect given it’s author’s passion for the spiritual - Way Over in Beulah Lan’ will help you develop a firm understanding of interpretation and a confidence in the ultimate performance.

Contributing Author


Thomas, Andre J. —article “Successful Rehearsal — Joyous Performance”,Sing
Out Magazine, National Journal for the Australian National Choral Association, 2016