Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • " Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The SATB version of Burleigh's solo setting was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956). The piano accompaniment uses a repetitive, falling-chord figure throughout to create the "swing low" aural imagery. Page departs from the usual homophonic, chordal texture to introduce a brief imitation between the soprano and tenor on the second phrase of the spiritual. At the end of the opening refrain, Burleigh ...

  • "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 ...

  • "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."

  • "There's a Meetin' Here Tonight" by R. Nathaniel Dett

    Article. The John Church Company published Dett's arrangement of There's a Meetin' Here Tonight in 1921. The composer dedicated the work to the Cecilia Society of Boston, an all-white chorus organized in 1874 under the sponsorship of Harvard University. The same group had premiered Dett'sChariot Jubilee a year earlier.

  • "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.)

  • " Breathe on Us, Breath of God" by Arthur Farwell

    Article. Farwell's strophic setting (four verses followed by a brief "Amen") contains colorful harmonies and unexpected voice leading that beautifully embellishes the text. For example, the soprano's opening tritone leads to an unusual dissonance on the word "breath" resolving to an F-major triad on "God." The return of this striking chord at the end of each verse, as well as in the concluding "Amen," ...

  • " Christ is Risen" by Victor Herbert

    Article. Herbert gained fame primarily through his forty-three operettas. His output, however, also included numerous works for orchestra, band, various instruments, and some twelve choral pieces. He wrote a large-scale cantata, The Captive, op. 25, for the 1891 Worcester (Massachusetts) Festival. His extended anthem for soloists and chorus, Christ is Risen, was premiered at St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, in 1908. A year ...

  • "Don't Be Weary, Traveler" by R. Nathaniel Dett

    Article. R. Nathaniel Dett dedicated Don't Be Weary, Traveler to philanthropist and arts patron George Foster Peabody. It was published by the John Church Company, "The House Devoted to the Progress of American Music." The publisher included it in a series titled "Negro Spirituals. Folk Songs of the South, Adaptations of Original Melodies by R. Nathaniel Dett." The publication was issued in 1921, just ...

  • " 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 ...

  • " 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 ...

  • "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 ...

  • " O Bless the Lord, My Soul" by John Knowles Paine

    Article. Paine deviates from Watts's original poetry, written in 1719, several times. Watts's phrase, "And makes thee young again," appears in Paine's setting as, "And makes thee strong again." The original phrase "He that redeemed my soul from hell" appears as "And he from everlasting death." For his musical setting, Paine chose a version of Watts's text published in the 1853 Unitarian Hymns for ...

  • " 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 ...

  • The Creation of "Amazing Grace"

    Article. Article. NOTES:1. Information for this essay was drawn in great part from Steve Turner's book "Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song" (New York: HarperCollins, 2002). We are grateful to the author for allowing us to quote his book liberally. [back to text]2. As Turner notes, the Quakers and Anabaptists were the only Christians to speak out against slavery (p. 50). ...

  • " 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 ...

  • "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.

  • " 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 ...

  • "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.

  • " 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 ...

  • Early Sound Recordings of "Amazing Grace" in the LC Collections

    Article. Article. Rust, Brian. The Victor Master Book, Volume 2 (1925-1936). Stanhope, NJ: W. C. Allen, 1970.

  • "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 ...

  • " 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 Dissemination of "Amazing Grace"

    Article. Article. NOTES:1. Hymns were (and still are) known by two titles: one, the first line of their texts and two, the name of the hymn tune to which the text is sung. Hence, one tune serve for a number of texts. [back to text] 2. Amazing Grace (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 114. [back to text] 3. Ibid. 126. [back to text]

  • " Come, O Thou Traveler" by Harvey Bartlett Gaul

    Article. At the second stanza, "Yield to me now, for I am weak," Gaul changes the key to C major and the texture to solo quartet. The full chorus reenters at "'Tis Love! Thou die'st for me." The work climaxes on a C-major chord in second inversion with the sopranos on a high G, "Pure universal Love, Thou art to me, Thou art to ...

  • " 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 ...