A Hungarian young woman named Nami Tóth requested this song. It’s from the French language version of the LDS hymnal, called “Cantiques”, which is French for “Hymns”. The music is based on the New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak, which in turn was based on an American Negro spiritual called, “Steal Away to Jesus.” Some musicologists believe this to be one of the “code songs” used by the slaves to pass on the information that a “conductor” on the “Underground Railroad” was in the area, and an escape was planned. I’m a sucker for the message of liberation, for the French language, and for requests from Saints in places where I’ve never been, especially if they are young people, and especially if I find the music unusual or interesting. How could I resist? Nami, this one’s for you!
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT an easy song to play. When I first transposed it, there were more chords in it than in any other hymn I’ve ever tabbed. There were more hard chords in it. There were more strange chords in it. I had to invent a couple of chord names. One was so long, I had to truncate it. Two chords were simply impossible to play for anyone with normal hands. I simplified one to make it playable, and left the other one out, replacing it with a single melody note. Other chords needed to have their notes rearranged. I maintained the melody notes as the treble note of each chord (the usual practice), rearranging the order of the other notes to make playable chords. It was still impossible, so I bit my lip, apologized to Dvorak, and re-wrote the whole song.
The result sounds very close to the original, but it contains thirteen fewer chords. At the cost of some very subtle (and very beautiful) harmonies, it is now merely difficult to play on the guitar, instead of impossible. If you are a regular on this blog, you will find nearly all the chords familiar.
Strum all the chords with the thumb or with a relatively soft pick. If thumb strumming, pluck the individual melody notes with the middle or ring finger. I find using the ring finger allows me to play with a rocking motion of the wrist.
In the third measure of the first line, you can leave the left ring finger on the second string, 5th space, which converts the GIII chord into a G6, for a nice, subtle harmony. I did not call for this in the tab, because I used it later in the fifth line, which is otherwise very similar.
The second line starts the same as the first, but don’t omit the G13→ Bdim→ Am chord progression. It’s beautiful. Your audience will love it, and it’s not hard. G13 may be unfamiliar to you, but it’s only a three finger chord. Bdim is even easier, being exactly the same as G13, except that you lift up the left ring finger. It can be a bit of a trick to get from there to Am quickly. I don’t know any special tricks for this. You just have to practice until you can do it fast. Be sure to play only the strings shown in the tablature, to bring out the melody notes. The chord charts show the standard fingering for the chords, but not all notes shown in the charts are used in the tablature every time.
The third and fourth lines are virtually identical, and contain only one chord. You may find it hard to hold the barred FI chord that long. Not to worry. There are a couple of spots in each line where you have to lift your fingers off the strings, to play the open notes on the 2nd and 3rd strings. It’s a good idea to lift off only the index and middle fingers, leaving the other two fingers in place, to facilitate your return to the full FI chord moments later.
The fifth line is very similar to the first line, except for the G6 chord in measure two, and the G7III chord in measure four. Be sure to add in the F note on the 2nd string, 6th space at just the right moment. You could hammer it on if you want to. Audiences love it.
The GaddD chord in the first measure of the last line is not nearly as strange or difficult as it may appear from the name. Just barre the first two strings in the third space, and play the next two strings open. You don’t even have to move your hand out of the C position. Just barre the strings with the little finger and lift the rest of the fingers off the strings. As soon as the strings quit ringing, immediately move the left hand up the neck to the 8th fret.
The next measures are the only really difficult ones. They are going to require some practice, especially if you are not used to playing barre chords at the 8th fret. ALL the chords in the rest of the song are played with the barre at the 8th fret. There’s just no other way to do it that is any easier.
Play the CVIII. As you can see in the chord charts, this is just an E-shape chord barred at the 8th fret. All the following chords are based on this chord shape, and are played without moving the barre, so it’s important that you get comfortable playing CVIII. Your finger’s going to be there, without moving, for the next three measures.
You could play G11 by barring the first five strings at the 10th fret. If you are playing a steel-string guitar, or have a cut-away body, go right ahead and do it that way. If, like me, you have a classical guitar with the 12th fret at the body, you probably won’t be able to fit your hand into the narrow space between the 10th and 12th frets. My solution is to keep the barred E-shape at the 8th fret, but flatten the left hand against the neck, in effect fretting all of the first five strings at the 10th fret, as shown in the chord chart.
The next chord is actually a plain CVIII chord, with the high C added at the 12th fret. Hence, its name, CaddE. By returning to the CVIII , and playing only the first four strings, you should be able to stretch your hand far enough to hit the 12th space with your little finger. If your fingers are short and stubby like mine, you may need to cover the note on the 4th string with your ring finger, which would normally be covering the 5th string, if you were playing more than four strings. You may notice that this chord looks a lot like a normal F chord, only barred at the 8th fret. You are right, and you can play it that way if you wish. I find it easier to barre the first two strings with the first joint of the index finger, as I would do if barring all six strings. This allows me to stretch my little finger farther. I suggest you try it both ways, then do it the way that’s easiest for you. It’s probably going to be difficult no matter how you try. No pain, no gain!
Hold the final CVIII chord as long as you can. Check the position of your fingertips, to ensure each is as close to the “sweet spot” between the frets as possible. If your fretting technique is good, you should be able to hold the chord at least for a count of 3. If the chord won’t sustain, recheck your fretting technique. Best way to do this is by looking in a mirror. That way, you can see what your fingers are doing, without having to bend your wrist and mess up your finger position.
The lyrics to this song were written by a Church-sponsored committee, and the copyright is held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Used by permission. You may download it, copy it for your own or church use, and perform it, as long as you don’t distribute it or charge money for performing.
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