Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

    Biography. Apart from his notoriety as a composer, Foote was highly regarded as a teacher and writer. He served as a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1911, and taught piano at the New England Conservatory between 1921 and 1937. He co-authored a theory text with Walter R. Spalding, Modern Harmony in Its Theory and Practice (1905, reprinted in 1969 and ...

  • " Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The alto carries the stately melody accompanied by a mournful, falling motive in the two soprano lines on the word "oh." The top-voiced harmonization is creative, and the melodic writing is vocally demanding. The work climaxes on a high, five-part divisi chord at the penultimate statement of the text, "A long way from home." The work ends pp in augmented note values on ...

  • John Knowles Paine (1839-1906)

    Biography. Although widely popular during his lifetime, Paine's works dwindled into obscurity as twentieth-century modernism took hold. Recent editions, writings, recordings and performances have brought Paine's music and his importance in American music history to the attention of present-day audiences and scholars.

  • "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind, op. 14" by Horatio William Parker

    Article. While he lived in New York, Parker developed many relationships with fellow musicians that led to frequent performances of his compositions. One of these relationships was with Frank Van der Stucken, the conductor of the New York Arion Society male chorus. Van der Stucken's choir performed many of Parker's works for male chorus, and may have taken his part-song Blow, Blow, Thou Winter ...

  • "Far awa'" by Mrs. H.H.A. (Amy) Beach

    Article. Article. Beach's thirty works for women's chorus are a significant part of her output. They include major choral/orchestra cantatas such as The Chambered Nautilus, op. 66, (1907), commissioned by the St. Cecilia Club of New York. The demand for women's chorus repertoire grew exponentially in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Women's musical clubs flourished in the years following the 1893 meeting ...

  • " Balm in Gilead" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. 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 ...

  • Harvey Bartlett Gaul (1881-1945)

    Biography. Gaul's choral compositions include both church anthems and secular cantatas. One of his most enduring works for choir is I Hear America Singing (1925), a setting of Walt Whitman poetry published in separate versions for mixed chorus, women's chorus, and men's chorus with soprano soloist. Today Gaul is memorialized through the Harvey Gaul Composition Competition, a biennial contest created by the Friends of ...

  • " Centennial Hymn, Op. 27" by John Knowles Paine

    Article. Centennial Hymn is a setting of John Greenleaf Whittier's six-verse poem of the same name. The musical material is strophic, the text setting is syllabic, and the length is a mere twenty-four bars of choral singing. A trumpet fanfare introduces the hymn, and an optional orchestral interlude is situated between the verses. Paine marks each of the initial four-bar phrases and the final ...

  • " They that wait upon the Lord" by Arthur B. Whiting

    Article. Whiting sets this text from Isaiah (40:28-31) as an accompanied verse anthem, a form that alternates between solo and chorus to provide textural variety. In this case the musical contrast is suited to the dichotomy represented in the text. For example, he sets the narrative, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" as a lyric baritone solo. On the other ...

  • " Barcarole, Op. 44" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. This work is unique among MacDowell's choral works for its lush vocal richness and coloristic four-hand piano display. Frequent hemiolas, grace notes, trills, and triplet patterns in the piano partner with a lyric melodic breadth and sensitive harmonic progressions in the voices. The poem is by F. M. von Bodenstedt (1819-1892), a well-known German writer whose texts were also set by Brahms, Grieg, ...

  • "While Shepherds Watched (1889)" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. Chadwick railed against the unschooled output of popular songwriters flooding the market to the exclusion of what he called "true music." In his 1876 paper on popular music reform, he complained about lack of originality in the popular music of the day. "Those who furnish the popular music have not paid, either in money or in mental discipline, the price of true and ...

  • "The Hawthorn Tree (1896)" by Margaret Ruthven Lang

    Article. 1. W. S. B. Matthews, ed., The Great in Music: A Systematic Course of Study in the Music of Classical and Modern Composers (Chicago: Music Magazine Publishing Co., 1900), 277-79.

  • "Three Choruses, op. 33" by Horatio William Parker

    Article. The final piece, "Valentine," is the most rhythmically interesting of the set, with several passages of linear independence and increasingly adventurous chromatic passing tones. All three of these unaccompanied TTBB [tenor 1, tenor 2, baritone, bass] settings lie within the appropriate range of each male voice type, and they are fashioned in the mildly sentimental style of the songs and glees popular with ...

  • George W. Chadwick (1854-1931)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. Chadwick is often dubbed the dean of American composers because of his position as conservatory director, his textbooks, and his teaching. He directly influenced important turn-of-the-century composers such as Horatio Parker, Daniel Gregory Mason, Frederick Converse, and William Grant Still. He received honorary degrees from Yale (A.M., 1897) and Tufts (LL.D., 1905). He was a member of the National Institute of ...

  • " Ol' Marse Winter" by Gena Branscombe

    Article. Branscombe's SSA setting of poetry by Mary Alice Ogden (1858-1926) was published by Arthur P. Schmidt Co., Boston, in 1914. Ogden's verse was used by permission of The Smart Set Co., a New York literary and cultural magazine edited by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan between 1914 and 1923. Branscombe sets the text, written in African-American dialect, to constant eighth notes, ...

  • Dudley Buck (1839-1909)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. In 1898, Buck was honored by election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Eleven years later, on October 6, 1909, the composer died at the age of 70.

  • R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)

    Biography. Dett was opposed to the style of "swinging the spirituals" that was becoming popular during the 1930s. He held a poll among his students at Bennett College regarding their opinions of the popular style. One of his students, reflecting Dett' s teaching, wrote: "I like the music, but I don't like the way it was sung. . . . I think it lowers ...

  • Mabel Daniels (1878-1971)

    Biography. Upon her return to America, Daniels joined Boston's Cecilia Society, where she was exposed to modern choral works with orchestra. She assumed the directorship of Radcliffe's glee club and the Bradford Academy music program (1911-13). In 1913, she was appointed head of music at Simmons College, where she served through 1918. She later established composition prizes and funds at Radcliffe to aid music ...

  • "Elfin Song (1910)" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. After a wild fairy dance round the witch hazel tree, the appearance of a beetle causes a key change and a buzzing, 16th-note figure in the accompaniment. Next, the leaf harp sings accompanied by rapid arpeggios. The opening music returns and the fairy figures "skip and gambol merrily" to a pp conclusion.

  • " Deep River" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The SSA version of Deep River was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956), a composer who frequently created choral arrangements of Burleigh's works for publisher G. Ricordi. The arrangement retains Burleigh's original melody and piano accompaniment. As the tune is shared by the lower two voices, it is embellished with occasional sixteenth notes, imitating an improvised style. Harmonies are simple diatonic triads with ...

  • " My Lady Nicotine" by Will Marion Cook

    Article. A lyrical ode to the joys of smoking, My Lady, Nicotine notably features the use of syncopated, ragtime rhythm (mm. 9 and 17) and high tessitura. The melody reaches a high A at the verse climax, "She's the mad little, bad little queen of smoke." The duple meter of the verse changes to triple in m. 23, introducing an enthusiastic waltz refrain for ...

  • "Bethlehem, op. 24" by Amy Beach

    Article. Article. The piece sets a text by George C. Hugg, a compiler of late-nineteenth-century hymnals. Beach's hymn enjoyed great popularity, receiving performances at the First Baptist Church, Boston, in 1893 and, a few years later, in Detroit and Minneapolis. Arthur P. Schmidt published and disseminated Beach's works, serving as an early champion of women composers. Beach also was an energetic promoter of her ...

  • " Minuet" by Patty Stair

    Article. In the opening A section, written in G major, the stage is set as Grand-aunt plays the spinet, "Thin and worn [is] the spinet's tone." The B section, in C major, takes the listener to bygone days of "ruffled lace" and handsome "Beaux with sabres hanging by their sides." The repeat of the A section marks a return to the parlor and the ...

  • "The Morning Wind" by Gena Branscombe

    Article. Also published as a solo song, Branscombe's choral setting (SSA) was issued by Arthur P. Schmidt Co., Boston, in 1914. The text is by Kendall Banning (1879-1944). The short piano introduction depicts the morning wind with an arpeggiated triplet figure in compound meter. The wind, the dawn, and "the land so fair" are wooing the narrator to explore "wherever roads may lead." The ...

  • Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. Cook also followed his own advice. Thomas Riis, in his study of early black musical theater, singles out Cook's remarkable harmonic skill and compositional sophistication. When the pursuit of his classical career was stymied, Cook brought his exceptional talent to bear on popular music, perhaps paving the way for the marriage of popular spirit and classical complexity which became jazz. Either ...