The Olympia Brass Band leads a New Orleans Jazz funeral in this photo montage describing the jazz funeral.

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

  • INSTRUCTION
  • MEDIA
GRADE: 9-12
SUBJECT: History, Culture, Band
GENRE: Traditional Gospel
TOPIC: Piano, Percussion, New Orlean History, Trumpet, Clarinet, Trombone, Sousaphone, Drum
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments, Composition and Theory Strand

DESCRIPTION

In this lesson, students will learn the history of New Orleans Jazz funerals and the lyrics, song form, and instrument techniques for the traditional Gospel song, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Students will illustrate their understanding of the song with a performance.

 

OBJECTIVES

  • Students will be able to research and gather historical facts about the song, “Just Closer Walk With Thee.”
  • Students will be able to analyze song form.
  • Students will be able to read music.
  • Students will be able to apply instrument techniques and strategies for learning a song.
  • Students will be able to play traditional Brass Band hymns on an instrument.

 

STANDARDS

National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments – Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Composition and Theory – Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.
Music – Composition and Theory – Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.


 

INSTRUCTOR NOTES

Students should have familiarity with reading music. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson. For more information on second lines, read the article “Where do second lines come from? The origins go back more than 200 years.” Students with disabilities may benefit from Adaptive Movements in this lesson.

 

MATERIALS

 

INTRODUCTION

  1. Display slides 3 and 4 of the presentation, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, so students can analyze the photographs. Ask students: What can you infer about the event or people in the photograph? Share with students that the photograph on slide 4 is from an Early New Orleans Jazz funeral. Tell students that European 19th-century military brass bands were enlisted to play at funerals and other events. The brass band funeral tradition derives from the West African tribal tradition where they used music, drums, and chants to help the deceased make the transition from earth to heaven. In the early 20th-century, Jazz bands began to adopt the tradition, creating what is now known as a New Orleans Jazz funeral. Tell students that the photograph on slide 4 is Harold Dejan, of Olympia Brass Band playing a Dirge. The band is slowly walking in sync lead by the Grand Marshal, Fats Houston, in a procession of a funeral.

 

  1. Tell students that “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” is a traditional gospel song, performed as an instrumental or vocal song. While the precise author of “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” is unknown, evidence suggests it dates back to southern African-American churches of the 19th century. The first known recording was by the Selah Jubilee Singers in October 1941. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, to listen to an audio recording of the Selah Jubilee Singers: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”

 

  1. Share with students some background about New Orleans jazz funerals. Tell students that “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” is one of the most popular hymns played by brass bands. When played at a jazz funeral, this song is played as a dirge. A slow, mournful hymn as the pallbearers bring the body of the deceased out of the church and place the casket in a hearse or horse-drawn carriage. Then the band plays it at a faster, more joyous tempo after celebrating the life of the dearly departed. Display slide 6 of the presentation, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, to watch a sample of a traditional Jazz funeral from the video, James Bond Live and Let Die New Orleans Jazz Funeral Scene 1. DISCLAIMER: This video is rated PG and contains violence. Read the Common Sense Media Review to determine if the video is suitable for your audience.

 

  1. Explain to students how “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” is played in a jazz funeral. The band begins with a bass and snare drum cadence, which is essential for setting the tempo of a dirge. Display slide 7 of the presentation, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, to listening to Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Just a Closer Walk With Thee. In many traditional brass bands, the role of playing the melody is passed from one instrument to the next. The musicians who aren’t playing the melody have an opportunity to improvise. It is very important to keep the melody going in an ensemble of this magnitude in order to avoid the chaotic sound of too many people improvising at once.

 

  1. Engage students in a listening session with the song, ” Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Display slide 8 of the presentation, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, to play the audio recordings. Ask students to discuss the recordings with their peers. Ask: Which instrument is playing the lead/melody? Which instrument(s) are playing the chordal harmonies (banjo/guitar/piano/etc)? Which instruments are playing melodic harmonies? What is the time signature? Are there any notable differences when contrasting one recording from another? What emotions do you feel as a listener? What is driving the emotional change?

 

APPLICATION

  1. Tell students they are going to learn the melody of the song, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Distribute the instrument-specific song guides below. Have students memorize the melody of the song. 

Clarinet Guide: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Drums Guide: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Piano Guide: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Sousaphone Guide: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Trombone Guide: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Trumpet Guide: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

 

  1. Distribute the Lyrics: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” to students. Rehearse the verses and allow time for students to practice on their own.

Verse 1: Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Verse 2: I am weak, but Thou art strong, Jesus, keep me from all wrong, I’ll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

 

  1. Have students reference the instrument-specific song guides to learn and memorize the chord progressions.

 

  1. Tell students that the song form for “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” is considered A form/roadmap. 

 

  1. Introduce students to the instrument-specific techniques for “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Review the techniques with students and allow time to practice. 

Clarinet Techniques: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Drum Techniques: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Piano Techniques: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Sousaphone Techniques: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Trombone Techniques: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

Trumpet Techniques: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

 

  1. Encourage students to independently transcribe solos related to their instrument. They can study the following Traditional Early New Orleans musicians to grow and refine their craft as a soloist. Tell students they can incorporate early New Orleans musician’s ideas with their own to discover their own unique identity.
    • Clarinet: George Lewis, Louis Cottrell, Barney Bigard, and Pete Fountain 
    • Drums: Kid Ory, Teddy Riley and the Excelsior Brass Band, George Lewis, Tuxedo Brass Band, and The Preservation Hall Band
    • Piano: Sweet Emma Barret and Her Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Billie and De De and their Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Louis Cottrell and his New Orleans Jazz Band
    • Sousaphone: Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Teddy Riley and the Excelsior Brass Band
    • Trombone: Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Sweet Emma Barret and Her Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    • Trumpet: Teddy Riley and the Excelsior Brass Band, Tuxedo Brass Band, Bunk Johnson and His New Orleans Band, and The Preservation Hall Band

 

  1. Review the Background and Performance Tips for “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Once students know the melody and techniques, have students play along with the Rhythm Section: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” shown on slide 9 of the presentation, Just a Closer Walk With Thee. To extend, play the melody and exercise embellishment, adding flavor or creating your own interpretation of the melody.

 

EVALUATION 

  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the song, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Have students perform the song and demonstrate the New Orleans functions and techniques for their instrument.  Conclude the lesson with a written reflection. Ask: What factors influenced the historical and cultural tradition of the song, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee?” What instrument techniques are applied to the song, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee?”

 

ATTRIBUTIONS

Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Editor and Content Producer
Meghan Swartz, Music Artist Consultant
Mark Braud, Music Artist Consultant
Ron Rona, Writer
Meredith Sharpe, Adaptations Writer

Audio

Video

Animated GIFs