Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • " Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The SSA version of the spiritual was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956) and published simultaneously with the version for solo voice. Burleigh alternates quietly intense refrains with declamatory forte verses. Page cleverly moves the melody between the top two voices and gives the alto a bit of contrapuntal interest at the beginning each verse. Burleigh's startling augmented harmony on the word "seen" ...

  • " Weepin' Mary" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. Burleigh's setting is austere in its unvaried, quarter-note/half-note rhythm. His harmonic inventiveness is, therefore, all the more telling against such a simple backdrop. After setting the first phrase in diatonic triads in F minor, he repeats that phrase with subtle chromaticisms and one bold progression on "Call upon your Jesus, an' He'll draw near." On the word "Jesus," Burleigh moves from an F-minor ...

  • "Bow Down Thine Ear" by Horatio William Parker

    Article. G. Schirmer published the piece in 1890. (Please note that in m. 44 the soprano's E-natural may have been intended to be an E-flat, as suggested by the doubling in the accompaniment.)

  • "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 ...

  • " Pirate Song" by Henry F. Gilbert

    Article. The present edition was issued by the H. W. Gray Co. in 1921. Gilbert adapted words from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with added stanzas by Alice C. Hyde. The opening baritone solo, "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest," elicits the first of many pirate responses, "Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum." The men's chorus sings in unison throughout except ...

  • "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 ...

  • " 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 ...

  • "De Gospel Train ('Git on bo'd lit'l children')" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. Burleigh's setting is an upbeat, highly rhythmic work with several harmonic surprises. His TTBB arrangement is punctuated by inspired moments of train imagery, most notably in the "chu chuck-a, chu chuck-a" sound effects of the second verse and the tenors' falsetto "toot, toot." The tenors sing a perfect fourth, F-sharp–B, against a tonic B-flat-major chord.

  • " Spelling Bee" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Though not originally considered one of Winner's more popular songs, Spelling Bee achieved immense popularity as Swinging the Alphabet, a novelty song sung by the Three Stooges in their 1938 film, Violent Is the Word for Curly. It was the only full-length song performed by the Three Stooges in their short films, and it marked the only time they mimed to their own ...

  • " Enchantment, op. 17, no. 1, (1908)" by Mabel Wheeler Daniels

    Article. Daniels's compositional career gained major status in 1913, when she presented her choral/orchestral work The Desolate City, op. 21, at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. Following that success, she returned to the MacDowell as a fellow for twenty-four successive summers. The wooded setting inspired one of her most widely played orchestral compositions, Deep Forest, op. 34, no. 1, (1932-33), which was the ...

  • " 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, ...

  • " 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 ...

  • " 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 ...

  • " O God, My Heart Is Ready, Op. 17" by Arthur B. Whiting

    Article. Whiting's unaccompanied motet stretches over thirty-five pages. It weaves several psalm texts and begins with an intonation for baritone solo, "There is sprung up a light for the righteous, and joyful gladness for such as are true hearted." The motet quickly transitions to full chorus with frequent divisi, "O God my heart is ready. Awake thou lute and harp." The vivace choral section ...

  • "The Carol of the Beasts" by Peter C. Lutkin

    Article. According to Pauline Graybill Kennel, Lutkin's biographer, he seemed to be at his best when composing shorter works. Carol of the Beasts, only four pages long, is an unaccompanied arrangement of a simple Christmas song by George Coleman Gow, professor of music at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, from 1895 to 1932. The four verses are set for a solo voice or small ...

  • "Inconstancy" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. Article. In this chorus he sets Shakespeare's text "Sigh no more ladies" from Much Ado about Nothing. The opening line receives a plaintive homophonic setting before the piece launches into a buoyant free counterpoint. Chadwick's rhythms are tied closely to the agogic stress of the text. He makes use of a folk-like pentatonic melody on "Then sigh not so, but let them go," ...

  • " So Sweet Is She" by Patty Stair

    Article. Stair sets the text in a chordal style with the melody nearly always in the first tenor voice. It is in three verses—each verse more developed harmonically—and a coda that recalls the final words of each verse: "so white, so soft, so sweet is she." Though it is set with close voicing, Stair avoids any use of "barbershop harmonies," opting instead for sonorities ...

  • " He Met Her in a Meadow" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. Burleigh's He Met Her in a Meadow was first published for solo male voice in 1921. G. Ricordi & Co., New York, published versions for mixed chorus, men's chorus, and women's chorus in 1922. Burleigh wrote the song's lyrics about a young farmer's late-evening flirtation. The musical setting is melodramatic and sentimental, foreshadowed in the tempo direction, Andante con molto sentimento. The ostensible ...

  • "God, That Madest Earth and Heaven" by Horatio William Parker

    Article. Parker's strophic setting is largely homophonic, reminiscent of a harmonized chorale melody. The part-writing, however, is occasionally imitative and always interesting, showing his excellent training and superior craftsmanship.

  • "O Holy Child of Bethlehem (1896)" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. Chadwick's setting of this text is for alto solo, chorus, and organ. It uses mostly simple diatonic harmonies until the climax at the text "Come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel." He employs successive diminished chords and widely-spaced voicing at "Our Lord," after which the harmony subsides into largely subdominant/tonic alternations.

  • " In Arcady by Moonlight" 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 (1879-1914) and refers to a mythical utopian place, a pastoral vision in which all is in harmony with nature. The poem begins, "In Arcady by moonlight (where only lovers go), there is a pool where fairest of ...

  • " Christ Jesus Comes from Heavenly Height" by Peter C. Lutkin

    Article. For much of his life, Lutkin composed original carols as Christmas card greetings. Child Jesus Comes from Heavenly Height was one of two such greetings later published by H. W. Gray. It is a simple, strophic a cappella setting—in two verses with refrains—of a translated poem by Hans Christian Anderson. The verse begins with a unison descending line that separates into four parts ...

  • " 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 ...

  • "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 ...

  • " Pretty to Me" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Pretty to Me is lyrical, gentle, soft, and sentimental. Its melody is limited to an octave and consists of four verses. The melody for the second two stanzas of the verse nearly mirrors that of the first two stanzas. Each verse is followed by a homophonic choral refrain on the words "pretty to me."