Balm in Gilead, 1919. Harry Thacker Burleigh, 1866-1949. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M1671.B
As with most of Burleigh's works for chorus, Balm in Gilead was originally set for solo voice. He dedicated the solo arrangement to John Wesley Work of Fisk University, author of the treatise Folk Songs of the American Negro (1915). The SSA version, arranged for women's chorus by Burleigh, is inscribed to the Schumann Club, conducted by Percy Rector Stephens. Balm in Gilead was published in 1919 for solo voice, men's chorus, and women's chorus by G. Ricordi & Co., New York.
The text of this spiritual was inspired by the biblical passage: "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jeremiah 8:22). Burleigh's setting alternates three nearly identical repetitions of the refrain with two verses. The refrain features a B-flat pedal tone in the piano accompaniment underlying a simple harmonization of the melody in sixths. In the final repetition of the refrain, the second alto part doubles the piano pedal tone.