Essays – Children Go Where I Send Thee

Back in the 1990s, I purchased a Document Records compilation CD, entitled, ‘If You Take Me Back’. In amongst the excellent and varied tracks, was a 1941 recording of the Gospel song, ‘Children Go Where I Send Thee’, in this case, entitled ‘Children Go Where I Send You’. This particular version was recorded in 1941 by The Harmony Four, I believe under the auspices of the Library Of Congress.

Over the years, this song has been recorded by numerous black and white musicians; The Golden Gate Jubilee Singers, Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, Tennessee Ernie Ford etc. The Harmony Four performance may not be the most polished or professional, but it has always appealed to me the most, and stuck in my mind ever since that first hearing in the ’90s.

Recently, I have finally had the spare time and the necessary recording equipment to pay tribute to the Harmony Four by making a version where I sing all the parts. Whether I have done it justice is a matter of opinion, but it was an itch I needed to scratch.

There are very few extant recordings of performances by the Harmony Four, but several are available from the collections of the always excellent Document Records.

Mat Walklate

Here is Mat’s version :

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Mat Walklate is a professional musician and music teacher.

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Wikipedia entry for ”Children Go Where I Send Thee’

“Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is a traditional African-American spiritual song, as well as a cumulative song. This song is also known as “The Holy Baby” or “Born in Bethlehem.” There are many versions of this song, each giving a Biblical meaning to the numbers mentioned.

One for the little bitty baby (Jesus); other versions add ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, born, born, born in Bethlehem’.
Two for Paul and Silas.
Three for the three men riding (Biblical Magi); or the Hebrew children, in some versions.
Four for the four knocking on the door (Four Evangelists); or the gospel writers, in some versions.
Five for the Five that came back alive; or Gospel preachers; or the bread they did divide, in some versions.
Six for the six that never got fixed; or the days when the world was fixed, in some versions.
Seven for the seven that all went to Heaven; or the day God laid down his head, in some versions.
Eight for the eight that stood at the gate; or the eight the flood couldn’t take, in some versions.
Nine for the nine that stood in the line; or the nine for the angel choirs divine, in some versions.
Ten for the Ten Commandments.
Eleven for the eleven deriders; or the ‘leven of ’em singin’ in heaven, in some versions.
Twelve for the Twelve Apostles; or the twelve disciples, in some versions.

This song is often performed as a Christmas carol, and has been recorded by Kenny Rogers with Home Free, Joe and Eddie, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nina Simone, Natalie Merchant, The Weavers, The Kingston Trio, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Mike Seeger with sisters Penny Seeger and Peggy Seeger, The Fairfield Four, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, The Burns Sisters, Mandisa, Johnny Cash, Mahalia Jackson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Audra McDonald, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Scala & Kolacny Brothers, Odetta, Hall and Oates, REO Speedwagon, Kenny Burrell, Nick Lowe, The Spinners, Ledisi, Colin James & The Little Big Band, Neil Diamond, The Laurie Berkner Band, The Blenders, Mnogaja Leta Quartet, Clara Ward and Phemza The Kween.