Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Amy Beach (1867-1944)

    Biography. Biography. Beach assumed many leadership positions, often in advancing the cause of American women composers. She was associated with the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In 1925, she was a founding member and first president of the Society of American Women Composers. Following her death on December 27, 1944, Beach's royalties were given to the MacDowell Colony, as ...

  • " Julep Song (The Good Old Mint Julep for Me!)" by Will Marion Cook

    Article. Julep Song was first published in the piano/vocal score of The Southerners in 1904 by York Music Co., New York. The popularity of the piece prompted a solo edition published in the same year by John H. Cook Publishing Co., New York. John H. Cook was Will Marion's brother.

  • "Done Paid My Vow to the Lord" by R. Nathaniel Dett

    Article. Dett arranged Done Paid My Vow to the Lord for baritone or contralto solo, women voices, and piano in 1919. It was published that year by the John Church Company. The tune did not appear in his collection Religious Folk-Song of the Negro as Sung at the Hampton Institute (1927). Rather, the spiritual came from the collection of George Lake Imes, secretary of ...

  • " Now Is Christ Risen from the Dead" by Harvey Bartlett Gaul

    Article. The anthem opens with a recitative-like introduction in C-major, set for soprano solo. The key modulates to A-major and a rousing 3/4 meter, as the full choir enters in declamatory octaves, "O death, where is thy sting." That music returns before a meter change to common time, Maestoso. Gaul sets "Christ being rais'd, die thee no more," to a steadily rising line in ...

  • "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 ...

  • " 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • "Peace on Earth, op. 38, (1897)" by Amy Beach

    Article. Beach's use of expressive devices serves to demonstrate adherence to her tenth musical commandment: "Remember that technic is valuable only as a means to an end. You must first have something to say--something which demands expression from the depths of your soul. If you feel deeply and know how to express what you feel, you make others feel."

  • " Dance of Gnomes" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. In dramatic contrast to Cradle Song, the song Dance of Gnomes sets a text by MacDowell that is jarring, spooky, and humorous. The Gnomes, also called "Flower Fairies," conjure up shadows, moonlight, dark forests, and magic spells. Later in the work they call themselves "ugly, hairy imps," "ugly noddles" (noddle is the nape of the neck, back of the head), and "willful hussies." ...

  • 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 ...

  • " Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The text and melody of Dig My Grave were taken from Bahama Songs and Stories by Charles L. Edwards. The opening is appropriately somber, marked Grave, and set for four-part men's voices: "Dig my grave long and narrow! Make my coffin long and strong!" At the tempo change to Andante cantabile, the women sing in parallel sixths while the men sustain an open-fifth ...

  • "The Old Person of Cassel (1905)" by Margaret Ruthven Lang

    Article. In her SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass] setting with piano accompaniment of Lear's The Old Person of Cassel (1905), she humorously interjects numerous "ha, ha," responses to each line of text. The nose of the old person of Cassel was "finished off in a tassel," which Lang paints with a stuttering musical figurethat sounds like a stifled sneeze.

  • "Festival Hymn" by Dudley Buck

    Article. The composer provides his own celebratory text that extols the power of music to unite nations. At the midpoint, Buck's music climaxes on the words "O blessed bond 'twixt the high and the lowly," which is answered more prayerfully, "Thy language is known to each nation." In the quietest moment women sing on a simple tonic triad, "O Music," which is answered by ...

  • "The Witch, Op. 5" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. From 1896 to 1898, MacDowell published four partsongs for the Mendelssohn Glee Club under the pseudonym of Edgar Thorn, fearing the members would feel obligated to accept the songs if he revealed he had written them. Other works by "Edgar Thorn" are The Rose and the Gardener, Love and Time, and War Song. The narrative text by MacDowell is about a witch living ...

  • Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)

    Biography. In 1913, Mason studied in Paris with Vincent d'Indy, who became his primary compositional influence. A fervent classicist, Mason's instrumental works include three symphonies, more than a dozen chamber pieces, several keyboard compositions, and other orchestral works and transcriptions. He is best known as a composer for his festival overture Chanticleer (1928) and his three symphonies, especially the Lincoln Symphony (1936). His vocal ...

  • "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 ...

  • " 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 ...

  • " Hosanna" by Arthur Farwell

    Article. Farwell orchestrated Hosanna for an extraordinary performance in Carnegie Hall by the students of the Third Street Music School Settlement in March 1918. The concert, led by the composer, featured a chorus of eight hundred and an orchestra of two hundred. The highly successful event (for which the stage had to be nearly doubled in size) not only raised a significant amount of ...

  • " 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 ...

  • Henry F. Gilbert (1868-1928)

    Biography. In 1905 he wrote Americanesque, which was a suite for orchestra based on minstrel show tunes. His first major success was Comedy Overture on Negro Themes (1910) for orchestra. He completed a work based on Creole music in 1908, but it was refused a public performance in Boston because of its hybrid style. Gilbert rewrote the work as a ballet, and The Dance ...

  • "I Love Thee, Lord" by William W. Gilchrist

    Article. The choral writing features a dialogue between the upper three voices and the bass. Gilchrist was fond of using contrapuntal devices to enliven his choral writing. At the end of the second verse, "Our source, our centre, and our dwelling place," triplets suddenly emerge in the accompaniment. The voices remain in common time, however, creating a rhythmic tension as the sopranos climb to ...

  • Edward Alexander MacDowell (1860-1908)

    Biography. MacDowell, Marian. Random Notes on Edward MacDowell and his Music. Boston: Arthur P. Schmidt and Co., 1950.

  • 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.

  • "Ponder My Words" by William W. Gilchrist

    Article. Gilchrist's 1915 anthem Ponder My Words was one of the works chosen for a service celebrating the centennial of his birth in 1946. The service was held at New Jerusalem Church in Philadelphia. The anthem opens with a soprano solo singing an expressive setting of the Psalm-Five text. At "consider my meditation," an extended diatonic sequence leads to a choral repetition of the ...

  • 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 ...