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"Goin' Home" by Antonín Dvořák/William Arms Fisher

Johannes Plenio/Unsplash

Earlier this month, my paternal grandmother passed away. She was one of the important relatives in my youth to encourage me in music and ministry, particularly in classical music. While attending her funeral in eastern Tennessee, I was introduced to this song. I was very curious, so I did some research and quickly found that the tune was from a symphony by Antonín Dvořák.

How did a symphony by a well-known Czech composer become like a spiritual?

There are two potential reasons. First, during Dvořák's time in the United States, he learned about genres of American music and supported the notion that the unique and original elements of African-American and Native American music should be utilized as a foundation for American music's growth. He was introduced to traditional African-American spirituals by his student, assistant, and esteemed colleague, Harry Burleigh.

Second, you can read more about William Arms Fisher's lyrics here.

"Goin' Home" is a song whose music and lyrics were written by Czech and American composers (respectively), both of whom were positively influenced by (and also became advocates for) African-American church music. Arguably, the most notable performance of this song is by the versatile Paul Robeson at Carnegie Hall in 1958. It would work well at a funeral or any church service that's reflecting on the afterlife or eschatology. Lyrics below:

Goin' home, goin' home,

I'm a goin' home;

Quiet like, some still day,

I'm jes' goin' home.

It's not far, jes' close by,

Through an open door;

Work all done, care laid by,

gwine to fear no more.

Mother's there 'spectin' me,

Father's waitin' too;

Lots o'folk gather'd there,

All the friends I knew.

Home, home, I'm goin' home!

Nothin' lost, all's gain,

No more fret nor pain,

No more stumblin' on the way,

No more longin' for the day,

Gwine to roam no more!

Mornin' star lights the way,

Res'less dreams all done;

Shadows gone, break o'day,

Real life jes' begun.

Dere's no break, ain't no end,

Jes' a livin' on;

Wide awake, with a smile

Goin' on and on.

Goin' home, goin' home,

I'm jes' goin' home.

It's not far, jes' close by,

Through an open door;

I'm jes' goin' home.

Goin' home.


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