When the Saints…

? 1896© Music by James M. Black Lyrics by Catherine E. Purvis
Catherine E. Purvisi1 * ??  † ??
James Milton Blacki1 * Scotland (in the latter part of the 1800s)  † ??

? Edward Hammond Boatner i2  * New Orleans, La November 13 1898
† New York City, NY June 16 1981

The Saints was original a funeral hymn in New Orleans, based on a spiritual song from the 1800s. In 1896 the lyrics were added by poet Catherine E. Purvis.
(unknown source)

Some of the best-known songs emerge from a complicated cocoon. While their words and melodies are so well known that the public feels as if they own them, their actual creators remain a matter of conjecture.

Take that indelible piece, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Around the turn of the last century, the tune began to be played by many New Orleans jazz bands. It occupied a privileged place in the ritualized repertoire with which they accompanied funerals. The melody arose when the mourners left the sorrow of the ceremony and returned to the comforts to be found in the life at hand. It soothed their loss and celebrated the continuity of the generations.

Where might they have learned it? Or who might have created it? Researchers believe it has its origins in the Bahamas, but somehow migrated to the mainland. Whatever the case, a song published in 1896 bears an uncanny similarity: “When the Saints Are Marching In,” music by James M. Black and words by Katherine E. Purvis, published Curtis & Jennings in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its chorus spoke of “Joyful songs of salvation thro’ the sky shall ring.” Another piece by Black, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” published in 1893, bears some relationship to the song we all know.

In the cauldron of creativity we simplify by the name of culture, the piece appeared in other published permutations: “When the Saints March In for Crowning” (1908), “When All The Saints Come Marching In” (1923), “When the Saints Go Marching Home” (1927), and, finally, “When the Saints Go Marching In” as part of Edward Boatner’s hymn book Spirituals Triumphant – Old and New, in 1927. A female gospel quartet recorded a version in 1925, and several bluesmen, including “Barbecue Bob” Hicks, gave their stamp to the tune during the late 1 920s.

Perhaps, however, the true trigger in the promotion of the song’s longevity may well have came from Louis Armstrong. He recorded it for Decca in 1938, and the impact of his gravely voice and ebullient trumpet solo clinched the public’s conviction that here was a song meant for the ages. “When the Saints Go Marching In” appears on something close to a 1,000 recordings, and has been played by such music masters as the Beatles, Fats Domino, Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Kingston Trio, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and the Weavers. This year, it receives the lasting accolade of Towering Song from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.i1

The melody probably comes from Edward Boatner, which the Song 1927 in Nashville in its singing book of spiritual Triumphant – old and new one published. Falsely it is gladly confounded James Milton Black attributed, which composed however rather 1896 When the Saints are marching in. The confusion is increased still by numerous similar titles as “When the Saints march in for crowning ‘” (1898), “When all the Saints come marching in” (1923) or “When the Saints go marching home” (1927).
The text of “When the Saints go marching in” ties in the long run at verbally traditional spiritual the black population of the USA. It exists a multiplicity of different versions, whose author cannot be usually determined reliably. Against common acceptance anyhow none of comes of Catherine Purvis which wrote rather the text to the When the Saints are marching in of acres already mentioned. Independently of the version the text of the hope of the faithful lends expression to belong on the day of the recent court to the chosen ones which may draw into heaven. The lyrics of the verses refers usually to the Apokalypse and reports for instance of the darkening of the sun or the trumpets of the earth angel Gabriel. The Refrain reads against it “Oh, when the saints go marching in, lord, how I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in”. Every now and then here an influence ambrosian width unit of Te Deums becomes from that 4. Century assumes, which contains a verse line Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Until today develop always new text versions in all world languages, which is facilitated in particular by the relatively simple metric of the melody and the large portion of the Refrains of the complete text. Some versions, as for instance of Haley, erase any religious purchase (“When that rhythm start to go…”). In addition countless variations come in the instrumentation, so that it is difficult to constitute a “canonical” version of the piece.i2 (Translated)

The song When the Saints Are Marching In…is NOT the traditional When the Saints Go Marching In. Even though the titles differ by a word, several authoritative music reference books list Purvis and Black as the 1896 authors of When the Saints Go Marching In. As a consequence, many song collections in a variety of formats—book, re­cord, tape and CD—wrongly assign Katharine E. Purvis and James M. Black the credit for this American folk favorite. In truth, the precise origins of When the Saints Go Marching In is not known. At this point it is probably not possible to trace the original source of this error, or to correct it from spreading. Longtime music professor at Lycoming College, Mary Landon Russell confuses the two songs in her 1957 masters thesis at Penn State University. The earliest authoritative reference book with the error appears to be The Great Song Thesaurus by Roger Lax and Frederick Smith, published by Oxford University Press. On page 380 of the 1984 first edition, the authors wrongly attribute When the Saints Go Marching In to Katharine E. Purvis and James M. Black in 1896.i3

The earliest incarnation of the hymn was as When the Saints are Marching In (See i3), published in 1896 in Cincinnati, Ohio, with music by James Milton Black and lyrics by Katharine Purvis. Already very similar to the contemporary song, the latter is obviously a derivative of it. Over the years, the song morphed to When the Saints March In for Crowning (1908), When All the Saints Come Marching In (1923), When the Saints Go Marching Home (1927), and finally When the Saints Go Marching In published in Nashville, Tennessee in 1927 for Edward Boatner´s hymn book Spirituals Triumphant – Old and New.
So many arrangements of the music and variations of the lyrics (see below) have been produced over the years that it can not said that there is one canonical version. In this it is become more like a folk song than a formally composed work.i4

Legend has it that “Saints” was a regular feature at prayer meetings and Sunday services; one day, some of the churchfolk heard a jazz band playing it returning from a funeral, and it was never sung again as a part of their church services.i5

If you have supplementary information about this song, please let us know.
Sources (internet):
i1 http://www.songwritershalloffame.org
i2 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_the_Saints_Go_Marching_In
i3 http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/s/a/wsamarch.htm
i4 http://www.bookrags.com