Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • " Long, Long the Night" by Daniel Gregory Mason

    Article. The first two verses Mason sets using mildly chromatic harmonies with a few seventh and ninth chords. In the third verse, however, he suddenly injects extreme dissonance to capture the pathos of the text, "Hear me, Powers Divine. Oh, in pity hear me. Take all else of mine, but my Chloris spare me!" The chord on "Chloris" contains both an E-natural and an ...

  • "The Friends We Love" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Winner wrote many such ballads during the civil war years. They were perhaps even more popular than those of his contemporary, Stephen Foster. According to Charles Claghorn, author of The Mocking Bird: The Life and Diary of Its Author, Septimus Winner, President Abraham Lincoln's favorite song was Winner's Listen to the Mockingbird, another simple ballad. The appeal of these popular songs was not ...

  • The American Art Song: An Introduction

    Article. Article. Although a full account of the American art song is beyond the scope of this introduction, it is hoped that these highlights will serve as an invitation to further explore and appreciate America's song tradition. The American art song, in its relatively brief two-hundred-year-old journey, has not yet traveled very far but it has certainly traveled wide: from the Psalm settings and ...

  • Yankee Doodle

    Article. Of humble origin and perhaps questionable in matters of lyrical "taste," "Yankee Doodle" has survived as one of America's most upbeat and humorous national airs. In the fife and drum state of Connecticut, it is the official state song. George M. Cohan revived the tune in his "Yankee Doodle Boy" (also known as "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy") of 1904. It should surprise ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Hail to the Chief

    Article. -- "The Lady of the Lake" by Sir Walter Scott

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

  • "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 ...

  • Of Thee I Sing

    Article. View posters from the New Deal era in American Memory

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

  • " 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" ...

  • "Bedtime (1906)" by Dudley Buck

    Article. Buck's setting begins with eight chimes of the clock in the keyboard accompaniment, each chime labeled with a Roman numeral I through VIII. The mother scolds the child with a minor-mode admonition, "Why it's late! After eight! And it's time you were in bed." Buck uses the same chiming device before each succeeding verse of the strophic setting. In the coda, the chimes ...

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 ...

  • U.S. Air Force Song

    Article. Melodies and songs are often quoted within another piece of music and "Off We Go" is no exception. Frank Zappa's twenty-five-minute opus "Billy the Mountain," a pastiche of American musical genres, incorporates melodic references to "Off We Go" and a number of other tunes such as "Over the Rainbow," "Pomp and Circumstance," and television's the Tonight Show theme.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • You're a Grand Old Flag

    Article. With and without Ethel Levey George Washington, Jr. ran from February 12, 1906 to April 23, 1906 and, following a national tour, had a one month return engagement in New York from February 11 through March 11, 1907.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • "O How Amiable" by Dudley Buck

    Article. Buck's sacred compositions include large-scale works, four cantatas, 55 anthems and 20 sacred songs. He played a central role in the development of organ and choral music in the United States.

  • " Cradle Song" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. The text is by MacDowell after a German poem by Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). A lullaby, this brief work is representative of a quintessential American male glee club song: a cappella, homophonic, closely voiced, regular phrases, heartfelt, and tender. Chromatic motion often occurs against pedal tones. Interest is found more in the overall harmonic effect than in the melody. MacDowell dedicated the work to ...

  • "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.

  • 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
  • "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."

  • " 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 ...

  • Over There

    Article. President Wilson described "Over There" as "a genuine inspiration to all American manhood" and Cohan remained unwavering in his patriotic fervor. However, a significant number of artists and performers grew increasingly disillusioned with a war in which 9,000,000 individuals lost their lives (117,000 of whom were Americans). Thus Cohan's work was contrapuntal to the edgier music produced by performers such as James Reese ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Fanfare for the Common Man

    Article. In March 1943, income taxes were a major issue for the common man. The United States had been at war about fifteen months and government spending soared. The previous year, as other taxes rose, only one in seven taxpayers had managed to save enough from their wages to pay the federal government. Congress had just recently required employers to withhold an employee's estimated ...

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