Exodus Medley
(Go Down Moses/Mary Don’t You Weep)

In the old testament book of Exodus, Moses was an Israelite who was put adrift on the Nile River in a basket by his mother to escape death at the hands of the Pharaoh. He was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him in the royal court as her own son. According to the biblical story, when Moses was grown, God appeared to him as a burning bush and told him to confront the Pharaoh and demand that the enslaved Israelites be allowed to leave. The song Go Down Moses tells of the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, where Moses implores Pharaoh to “let my people go”. 

After several verses describing Moses demanding the release of the Israelites, the song ends without resolution. In Exodus, Pharaoh finally relents and allows the Israelites their freedom to leave Egypt. But he changes his mind and sends his army out to return the Israelites. As you all certainly remember, this is where Moses parts the sea so that the Israelites can cross, but when the Pharaoh’s army follows, the seas close back in to drown the Pharaoh’s army. To create closure to my story, I conclude the medley with a verse and chorus from another old gospel song, Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep.

For those enslaved on antebellum southern plantations, the symbolism of this song is obvious. The Pharaoh represents the slave masters to whom they sang, “Let my  people go” – obviously referring to their own freedom. And, of course, the drowning of Pharaoh’s army is their hope for the defeat of the slave owners.

I’ve played each of these songs for over 50 years, but I never considered putting them together until I sat down to arrange this track. It just occurred to me that the songs began and ended the same story. So that’s where the idea of the medley came in.

Listen to a 1 minute preview of this track here: