Anthem Review: “African Alleluia” by Benjamin Harlan

In the Hal Leonard Sacred Choral Club 2011 Christmas release, Benjamin Harlan released a fun, new anthem called, “African Alleluia.”  Published by Brookfield Press, through Hal Leonard, Harland gives three voicings of this octavo: SAB, SATB (both $1.95), and TTB ($1.80).

From the anthem: About the composition… “African Alleluia” is a wonderful Advent celebration!  Clean, precise rhythm is a key ingredient along with a careful attention to terrace dynamics (dynamics change from phrase to phrase instead of gradually).  Take rhythm insrtuments and lost of smiles, mix together and enjoy!  Use it as a processional, special anthem or ro close the service; apprepriate for worship or concert.

This review will be based on the SATB voicing.

“African Alleluia” is for four-part mixed voices, accompanied with optional percussion (triangle, shaker, and congas).  This melody introduced by Harlan is based on a Kenyan folk melody.  The piece is in the key of C, and it is in cut time and tempo is set to a half note equalling 88.

MEASURES 1 – 8 (INSTRUMENTAL OPENING)

It begins with a rhythmic bass line centered around the I and V chords for eight measures.  There is a note for the line to be doubled by an electric bass, if possible.  Another option would be for the bass to play alone.  The line is repeated throughout the song and can be played by less-experienced players if given the music far enough in advance.

MEASURES 9 – 16 (THEME ONE)

Text: Sing alle…lu-i-a! (loo-wee-yah)!  Allelu…Christ is born!

At measure nine, the Sopranos enter (not the cast from the television show, but the actual singers) with the melody.  The melody that is introduced is written in measure phrases (in other words, a measure of melody is followed by a measure of rest) and accompanied by a simple piano accompaniment, enhanced by a triangle.    This eight-measure phrase is then repeated while adding the Bass singers and the shaker.  The eight measure phrase repeats again – this time adding the Alto, Tenor and congas.  As an added option, the accompaniment is optional through measure 25.  If friendly to your particular choir, this would be a great option to consider.

MEASURES 17 – 24 (THEME TWO)

Text: “Sing alleluia, alleluia!  Sing alleluia, Christ is born!

The music follows the pattern of music for a measure and rest for a measure, but it is building melodically and rhythmically.

MEASURES 25 – 32 (THEME THREE)

Text: Allelu, alleluia! Christ is born in Bethlehem!

This section is four-part with a little syncopation built in.  This sequence is the first time a phrase is carried over a measure…this time three measures.

MEASURES 33 – 40

This is THEME TWO repeated two-part this time, instead of four part.

MEASURES 41 – 48

This is THEME ONE repeated (note for note and word for word).

MEASURES 49 – 56

This is THEME TWO repeated (note for note and word for word).

MEASURES 57 – 64

This is a variation of THEME THREE with an inverted melody line transferring from the ladies to men.  Harlan also adds a 5th vocal line for the 2nd Sopranos.

MEASURES 65 – 72

Instrumental section

MEASURES 73 – 80

This is a two-part variation of THEME ONE on “loo” instead of original lyric.

MEASURES 81 –  88

This is a four-part variation of THEME ONE with the lyric.

MEASURES 89 – 96

This is THEME THREE (note for note and word for word).

MEASURES 97 – 104

This is the variation repeated from measure 57.

MEASURES 105 – 112

This is 97 – 104 repeated.

MEASURES 113 – 119 (end)

This is 97 – 104 repeated.

This is a fun piece!  As you can see from the breakdown, there are three main themes and a variation here and there, making it very easy for any choir to learn.  Having skilled instrumentalists would add so much for the anthem.  Doing this with a piano only wouldn’t make it or break it, but the added percussion instruments would take it over the top!

Purchase the anthem from your favorite music supplier.  The SATB item number is 08741618 from Hal Leonard/Brookfield Press.

From the anthem: Benjamin Harlan is a widely-published arranger and composer with choral, keyboard and handbell works included in the catalogs of several major publishers.  He is a member of ACDA, Southern Baptist Church Music Conference and ASCAP, receiving ASCAP awards each year since 1990.

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