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"In His Hands", arr. Davidson & Hailperin

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Bel Canto Male Choir

He's Got the Whole World in His Hand

By Roy Abramovitz

 

 

This is an old and famous Negro spiritual. Nobody knows who composed the original words or melody. Here are two midi files of the familiar version:

Wholeworld_simple (Click Here)

Wholeworld_jazz (Click Here)

negro spiritual singers

The arrangement we sing is by Charles Davidson and Cyrus Hailperin, published in 1956, for four males voices and baritone solo.  A notation appears at the top, dictated by Frances Townsend Skinner, perhaps indicating that this arrangement was not just the product of Jewish musicians.

 

Following are the lyrics, as they appear in our version:

 

He's got the whole world in His hand (3x)

He's got the whole wide world in His hand.

He's got the beasts of the field in His hand (3x)

He's got the whole wide world in His hand.

He's got the fish of the sea in His hand (3x)

He's got the whole wide world in His hand.

He's got you and me in His hand (3x)

He's got the whole wide world in His hand.

He's got the whole world in His hand (3x)

He's got the whole wide world in His hand.

 

At this point, the baritones continue with the melody, as above, while the tenor and bass voices introduce a different theme altogether, the St. Anthony's Hallelujah Chorus, from Brahms' variations on a theme by Haydn.

 

Here, as a memory jogger, is a midi file of that whole work (the basic Hallelujah theme is at the beginning):

St. Anthony Hallelujah (Click Here)

Although this classical theme stands in contrast to the spirituals melody, it would seem to be very much in keeping with the overall tone of rejoicing.

 

Given the deep religious feeling reflected in these spirituals, I would like to suggest a comparison of a text that would seem to be quite parallel in its scope and content: If we turn to Psalms Chapter 95 (Tehilim 95), the theme of G-d's hand is recurrent:

 

v. 4:  "In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The heights of the mountains are His also."

 

v. 5:  "The sea is His and He made it; And His hands formed the dry land".

 

v. 7:  "For he is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, and the flock of His hand.

 

Note that in v. 4 and v. 7, the word "hand" appears in the singular, as in the text of the spiritual.

 

He's got the whole world in His hand - compare this with v. 4.

He's got the beasts of the field in His hand - compare v. 7

He's got the fish of the sea in His hand - compare v. 5.

He's got you and me in His hand - compare v. 7, "the flock of His hand"

 

Although the above comments obviously do not offer an exhaustive review of the possible Biblical sources for this spiritual, I have no doubt that the Psalms had considerable influence.

Note: The Midi files on this page are from the web and, to the best of our knowledge, in the public domain.