• Florence Price
  • Some o' These Days

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)


ed. John Michael Cooper

  • Voice, piano
  • 3 min
  • Traditional
  • English

Programme Note

Better known today as "Welcome Table," Some o' These Days is a traditional African American song that, like so many of what Du Bois called "the sorrow songs," musically melds faith in divine redemption with the sacred imperative of social justice — allowing the meek, the exploited, the oppressed to sit, inevitably, in a position of honor and glory. In this sense Florence Price's arrangement is a counterpart to her setting of Langston Hughes's Judgement Day. But unlike that gospel song (as Hughes termed it), Some o' These Days draws on the authority of ancestral tradition, using a well-known spiritual that celebrates African American slaves' appropriation of Christianity to resist oppression by affirming their self-worth. Price of course knew the tune from her own experience, but it is much older than that. It is not cited in any of the mid- and late-nineteenth-century collections devoted to African American songs, but by 1916 it was sufficiently widespread for a choral arrangement with conspicuously Anglicized lyrics and concert-music harmonies to be prepared by Homer A. Rodeheaver. An arrangement more faithful to the tune's African American heritage was first published in Nicholas George Julius Ballanta-Taylor's pivotal 1925 collection of the spirituals sung in Gullah on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. The original Gullah lyrics were "I'm goin' down to de ribbuh ob Jerdan, O yes, I'm goin' down to de ribbuh ob Jerdan some o' dese days! / I'm goin' to set at de welcome table… / I'm goin' to feast off milk and honey… / I'm goin' to march wid de tallest angel…"

Price's arrangement is undated, but the blocky, slightly trembly handwriting in the autograph suggests that she penned it late in life, possibly ca. 1947-52. The arrangement makes clear that, for Price, the salient beauty of Some o' These Days resided partly in its spirituality, but also its self-affirming exaltation of the oppressed. Indeed, in this sense Price was in step with Woodie Guthrie's 1940 recording of the tune as "Streets of Glory, or I'm Gonna Tell God How You Treat Me" and with the tune's emergence, not long after she arranged it, as an anthem in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement — a context in which the traditional image of the "welcome table" would be expanded, in another verse, to include "I'm gonna sit at the Woolworth Counter" (a reference to the Woolworth Department Store's policy of refusing service to Blacks). Price's emphasis on this spiritual self-affirmation and resistance to oppression is evident in her setting's foregrounding, via fermatas, of the word I, but even more obviously via the right-hand evocations of fanfare-like trumpet calls in mm. 22-23, in strophes that invoke the Israelites' exodus from Egypt ("milk and honey" allude to the Promised Land from Exodus Chapter 3) and the oppressed African Americans' telling their troubles directly to God. Some o' These Days thus emerges as a counterpart to two of Price's other still-unpublished social-justice masterpieces, Monologue for the Working Class for baritone and piano and Scenes in Tin Can Alley for piano solo.

— John Michael Cooper