Billings in Blue
Review from The Choral Journal, October, 1996
This is one of a series of "Doo-wop madrigals," jazz arrangements of standard choral literature by Gregg Smith. In this unaccompanied setting of Billings's When Jesus Wept, the opening is sung by solo soprano. The basses begin the next verse imitating a pizzicato bass in a repetitive 3/4 ground-bass pattern. They are joined by the female voices in a two-part parallel organum melody reminiscent of medieval music. The next verse adds tenors and a soprano melody (ranging to b7) to produce a thick harmonic texture. The final verse is a four-part round that ends in unison over the continuing pizzicato bass.
A variety of fresh musical ideas and styles make this arrangement an excellent teaching tool. It should work well with vocal jazz groups, show choir, madrigal singers, or full concert choirs.
Review by Richard T. Johnson