A Poor Wayfaring Stranger

Offertory Anthem: “I'm Just a Poor Wayfarin' Stranger” arr. Patti Drennan (b. 1952)


From “The Bluegrass Situation:”


“While the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” has been at the foundation of North American music for at least two centuries, its origin is far from exact. Some historians have traced its genesis to the 1780s, others, the early 1800s. Depending on who you’re talking to the song may be a reworked black spiritual, a lifted native hymn, or even a creation of nomadic Portuguese settlers from the southern Appalachian region. The song, which features its singing protagonist contemplating better times with their family in the afterlife, first gained popularity at Appalachian revivalist sermons before slowly spreading westward with the pioneers. Though “Wayfaring Stranger” has remained a gospel constant ever since, what has probably done more to solidify its place in the American musical tapestry is its constant rediscovery and renewal in the near-secular and popular musical worlds. In the 1940s, renowned actor and singer Burl Ives made “Wayfaring Stranger” one of his signature songs. By the hippie era late-1960s it was Joan Baez who introduced the free love set to the song. Next, Emmylou Harris turned it into a minor hit in 1980 and then “The Man in Black” himself, Johnny Cash, reclaimed it in 2000 during that magical late-career renaissance he had. In the song’s latest resurgence, British pop star Ed Sheeran has turned a near a cappella-and-vocal loops version of “Wayfaring Stranger” into a much-copied YouTube phenomenon.

With its evocative lyrics and magnetic melody, it’s hard to do “Wayfaring Stranger” wrong. After all, Sunday school teachers and folk festival third-stagers have been churning out entirely competent versions of the song for decades. That said, the best versions of “Wayfaring Stranger” can be so much more. When a musician captures that gravitas and world-weary challenge just right it’s like a lightning bolt right to the soul.”


Our anthem today was chosen because it directly reflects and seems inspired our Epistle reading. See if you agree.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Patti Drennan (1952- ) earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree at Oklahoma State University and a Masters of Music Education degree at the University of Oklahoma. She taught Choral Music for twenty-eight years in Norman Public Schools, the first twenty years at West Mid-High School, where she was voted “Teacher of the Year”, and eight years at Norman High School. In 2004, she was awarded the coveted “Director of Distinction Award” given yearly by the Oklahoma Choral Directors Association.

An active composer and arranger, Patti has over 475 choral octavos, piano and piano/vocal books published with ten major publishers. She has served as a clinician for school and church workshops in 21 states, 3 times in Canada, and has presented 4 sessions at the Texas Music Educators Convention. She has been guest director at numerous "Composer Weekends". She has been an adjudicator for school choral contests in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas.

Patti retired from teaching in 2004 to compose and stay active as a clinician and workshop presenter. For almost ten years she served as Music and Worship Arts Director at First Baptist Church, Norman. She is married and has two grown children. Patti enjoys writing leading music reading sessions for publishers and singing in a professional gospel choir. She also enjoys spending time performing and recording with her daughter and son-in-law in numerous symphonic performances. Her Christmas CD recorded with her daughter entitled "A Mother Daughter Christmas" is now available on I-Tunes, Amazon, GooglePlay and on www.emilydrennan.com/store.

http://www.pattidrennan.com/bio; Accessed 20 January 2018


Sunday, February 4 will be exploring the music from the continent of Africa with the anthems coming from the Soweto Gospel tradition and those American composers now writing in that tradition to help keep it alive.

“The music, which uses traditional African call-and-response structure and rhythms and Western vocal arrangements, was born in the missionary churches of South Africa. Over time, a style developed that embraced both the hymns the missionaries had brought with them and the traditional music of Africa.”

Uhles, Stephen. “Soweto Gospel Choir Looks to Tradition.” The Augusta Chronicle, 16 Mar. 2006, chronicle.augusta.com/music/2006-03-16/soweto-gospel-choir-looks-tradition, page=3.

153 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All