Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • "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.

  • " O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Peter C. Lutkin

    Article. Lutkin set Brooks's text for alto solo, mixed choir, and organ. The piece is harmonically uncomplicated with smoothly voiced progressions through secondary dominants. The setting is rhythmically interesting as the meter shifts several times between quadruple and triple meter to suit the changes in the text. The accompaniment alternates between a broken-chord texture beneath the melodically lyric segments and a chordal texture to ...

  • 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 ...

  • " Ojalá" from "The Spanish Gypsy" by Patty Stair

    Article. The piano accompaniment is also reminiscent of flamenco music. The left hand of the accompaniment provides a driving rhythmic ostinato imitating a pizzicato bass, while the right hand alternates between chords and short melodies moving in parallel thirds. Similarly, the top two choral parts are often set in moving thirds and ornamented, while the alto voices are set in a more sustained style. ...

  • " Two Northern Songs, Op. 43: No. 1, The Brook; No. 2, Slumber Song" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. Setting his own text, MacDowell describes a winter scene: "Frozen is the ground, / The stream's ice bound, / Softly the north wind croons, softly croons." In the final stanza, a "flaxen head," perhaps a child's, rests on the poet's shoulder while it snows outside. The text and melody are carried by the soprano while the lower three voices hum. Harmony is chromatic ...

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  • 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 ...

  • H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949)

    Biography. Simpson, Anne Key. "Hard Trials: The Life and Music of Harry T. Burleigh." Composers of North America, no. 8. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1990.

  • "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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • " Song for a May Morning" by Patty Stair

    Article. Patty Stair wrote Song for a May Morning in 1914 to address the needs of the burgeoning women's musical clubs that gained popularity during the first part of the twentieth century. The piece begins with a lively duet between the upper two voices. The alto parts join the texture in close imitation of the top voices. A homophonic section follows featuring more adventurous ...

  • " 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 ...

  • " 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 ...

  • 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.

  • Margaret R. Lang (1867-1972)

    Biography. Lang was self critical of her works and frequently destroyed them. None of her orchestral works are extant. After her father's death in 1909, she became caretaker of her elderly mother. She stopped composing in 1919. A zealous Episcopalian, she published a series of devotional pamphlets titled "Messages from God" between 1927 and 1939. At her own expense, she printed and distributed 6,000 ...

  • "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.

  • 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 ...

  • " 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, ...

  • " 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 ...

  • " 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," ...

  • William W. Gilchrist (1846-1916)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. Gilchrist suffered periodic bouts of depression and was unable to conduct at the Mendelssohn Club concerts in 1913. He spent the last 16 months of his life receiving treatment at the Easton Sanatorium in Pennsylvania.

  • " 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 ...

  • " Whoop Her Up!" by Will Marion Cook

    Article. The piece was published in 1910 by Harry Von Tilzer, New York. The present edition, copyrighted by Cook, alters the original "Whoop 'er up" to "Whoop her up" in both the title and the lyrics. The edition is missing a glissando on the word "whoop" in the vocal and piano parts found in the original publication (m. 42).

  • "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 ...

  • " 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, ...

  • " 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 ...