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 ...

  • Eternal Father, Strong to Save

    Article. Eternal Father, was a favorite hymn of both President Theodore Roosevelt, a former Secretary of the Navy (1897-98), and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. It was performed as the body of President John F. Kennedy, a PT boat commander in World War II, was brought to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • " 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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  • The Sea

    Article. MacDowell's Eight Songs, op. 47, come from his last period of song composition. Written in 1893 while living in Boston, these songs were penned when MacDowell was at the height of his fame as a composer. The second to last song in the set, "The Sea," is perhaps one of MacDowell's finest songs. Set to a text by William Dean Howells, "The Sea" ...

  • Library of Congress March

    Article. One particular hurdle was the brevity of the 'dog fight' section. The piano draft was too short here, and seemed undeveloped. Fortunately, one of the early fragment sketches had some melodic scribbles (nearly indecipherable) that turned out to match the places where the piano draft seemed incomplete. With this the 'dog fight' was filled out and the form came together nicely.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Battle hymn of the republic

    Article. But it was when Julia Ward Howe visited Washington, DC in 1861 that the tune properly came to be called "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Howe and her husband, both of whom were active abolitionists, experienced first-hand a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops in nearby Virginia, and heard the troops go into battle singing "John Brown's Body." That evening, November 18, ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Hail Columbia

    Article. Up until the 1890s "Hail Columbia" was played as the de facto national anthem of the United States. President Lincoln once mentioned he had to stand up and take off his hat when "Hail Columbia" was sung. Many Europeans actually took it to be the U.S. anthem and played it accordingly. In 1889 it was played in that fashion to honor Thomas Edison ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • "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 Banks of the Yellow Sea

    Article. Among the composers who benefited by having works included in the issues of New Music were Ruth Crawford, Charles Ives, Wallingford Riegger, and Carl Ruggles, and Virgil Thomson. Ernst Bacon, who contributed over 200 works to the American art song canon, also benefited from this publication when his Six Songs appeared in the January 1942 issue. The collection features Bacon's settings of the ...

  • Columbia the Gem of the Ocean

    Article. Sheet music from both 1843 and 1846 credited the American title as "Columbia, the Land of the Brave." Yet between these two dates, in 1844, the song was also published under the title it subsequently retained, "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean." Extremely popular during Abraham Lincoln's Civil War administration, the song became a standard tune in the U.S. Marine Corps Band's repertoire.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • " 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 ...

  • African-American Band Stocks

    Article. Article. All of these composers wrote hit music, heard in hotel restaurants as well as in the small-town bandstands of America. This music still retains its ability to delight.

  • The Yankee Doodle Boy

    Article. Subsequent to Cohan's most successful years on Broadway, a number of shows have incorporated his song "Yankee Doodle Boy" and/or depicted the "Yankee Doodle Boy," himself. Eddie Buzzell sang "Yankee Doodle Boy" in the 1929 motion-picture adaptation of the big hit Little Johnny Jones. Jimmy Cagney played the role of George M. Cohan and sang "Yankee Doodle Boy" in the Academy Award-winning 1942 ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • "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.

  • " 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," ...

  • The Army Goes Rolling Along

    Article. Refrain: Then it's Hi! Hi! Hey!The Army's on its way.Count off the cadence loud and strong,For where e'er we go,You will always knowThat The Army Goes Rolling Along.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Victory at Sea

    Article. "Victory at Sea" received immediate acclaim. It earned a Peabody, a special Emmy and numerous other awards. Its production team, led by Henry Salomon, created an enduring art form, the compilation documentary. It also earned Richard Rodgers the U.S. Navy's Distinguished Service Award in 1953.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • " 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).