"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...
"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's Chariot Jubilee a year earlier.
"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...
" 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,...
" Balm in Gilead" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. As with most of Burleigh's works for chorus, Balm in Gilead was originally set for solo voice. He dedicated the solo arrangement to John Wesley Work of Fisk University, author of the treatise Folk Songs of the American Negro (1915). The SSA version, arranged for women's chorus by Burleigh, is inscribed to the Schumann Club, conducted by Percy Rector Stephens. Balm in Gilead...
"De Gospel Train ('Git on bo'd lit'l children')" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. Burleigh's setting of De Gospel Train has its roots in several sources, but most likely originated from the Bahamian spiritual Get on Board. A revival song featuring a pentatonic melody, De Gospel Train is one of several African-American spirituals that became closely associated with the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad. Burleigh's arrangement was published in 1921 in separate versions for solo voice...
" Deep River" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. Burleigh's 1917 setting of Deep River for solo voice, published by G. Ricordi & Co., New York, is one of the composer's most beloved works. It was so well-received, it inspired the publication of nearly a dozen more spirituals the same year. In addition to the original versions for solo voice, men's chorus, and women's chorus, Deep River received transcriptions for string quartet,...
" Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. In 1914, G. Schirmer published the collection Afro-American Folksongs, edited by scholar and music critic Henry E. Krehbiel (1854-1923). The collection included eleven spiritual arrangements for unison chorus by Burleigh. Dig My Grave was among those arrangements, in a section on funeral music. The four-part, unaccompanied arrangement was published in 1914 along with Deep River by G. Schirmer, New York.
" He Met Her in a Meadow" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. Burleigh's He Met Her in a Meadow was first published for solo male voice in 1921. G. Ricordi & Co., New York, published versions for mixed chorus, men's chorus, and women's chorus in 1922. Burleigh wrote the song's lyrics about a young farmer's late-evening flirtation. The musical setting is melodramatic and sentimental, foreshadowed in the tempo direction, Andante con molto sentimento. The ostensible...
" Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. Following the success of Deep River in 1917, Burleigh arranged and published nearly a dozen more settings of African-American spirituals in the same year, including Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen. Burleigh's simpler arrangement of the spiritual for unison chorus had previously appeared in Afro-American Folksongs (1914), edited by Henry E. Krehbiel. G. Ricordi & Co., New York published versions for solo voice,...
" Southern Lullaby" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. One of Burleigh's original compositions, Southern Lullaby, was published in 1920 by G. Ricordi & Co., New York, in editions for both solo voice and for unaccompanied mixed chorus with soprano and tenor solos. The text is by poet George V. Hobart (1867-1926), a Burleigh acquaintance from Nova Scotia. They both became charter members of the American Association of Composers, Authors, and Publishers...
" Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. Burleigh's arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was originally published for solo voice in 1917 following the success of Deep River. This famous spiritual was first introduced to the concert stage by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1871. While the biblical basis for the spiritual's text can be found in II Kings: 2, 11, the origin of the piece is more closely associated...
" Weepin' Mary" by Harry Thacker Burleigh
Article. Burleigh's brief setting of Weepin' Mary was published in 1917 in versions for solo voice and women's chorus by G. Ricordi & Co., New York. The women's chorus version was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956). Only thirty-one measures in length, the setting is a quiet, introspective piece in AAB form. The text is a commentary on a biblical passage: "But Mary stood...
Irish American Song
Irish immigrants constitute one of the most expansive immigrant communities in the United States. The largest Irish American communities are to be found in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, with many more Irish Americans living in other urban centers across the country.
The Chicano Civil Rights Movement
Agustín Lira performing songs from the Chicano Civil Rights Movment at the Library of Congress, September 14, 2011. Select the link to view the webcast.
Folk Singers, Social Reform, and the Red Scare
The Works Progress Administration era recordings and subsequent recordings of artists such as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie singing folk music helped to raise the awareness of the songs of rural Americans, Appalachians, African Americans, and various ethnic groups among urban and affluent Americans. These particularly influenced young people, who learned to sing these songs themselves, giving rise to the folk song revival. Though much...
Blues as Protest
Prisoners at Cummins State Farm, Arkansas who were recorded by John Lomax in 1934, where he later recorded "I Don't Do Nobody Nothin" sung by C.W. "Preacher" Smith (A.K.A. Rev. Nathanial Hawkins) in 1939. Select the link for more information and a larger image.
American Indian and Native Alaskan Song
This essay is from the introduction to songs and dances from Many Nations: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States, p. 266. See the full citation under Resources below.
Greek American Song
Sophia Bilides and Mike Gregian performing Smyreika songs at the Library of Congress, August 24, 2011. Not pictured, Mal Barsamian.
Scottish American Song
Scotland occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. Despite entering into a political union with England in the early eighteenth century, the continued existence of separate Scottish legal, educational, and religious institutions from the rest of the United Kingdom have contributed to the ongoing distinctiveness of an indigenous Scottish culture and national identity, which extends to the region's vocal music.
Armenian American Song
Mary Goshtigian with oud. Part of a group of field materials documenting Mary and Hartop Goshtigian performing Armenian and Armeno-Turkish songs and music on April 17, 1939, collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Fresno, California.
Italian American Song
The Italian American population numbers more than fourteen million through the fourth generation. The largest wave of immigrants (around four million) arrived in the United States at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century. The majority hailed from the largely overpopulated and poor central and southern parts of Italy, where the populace had been impoverished by centuries of foreign misrule,...
Bahamian American Song
Poet James Weldon Johnson, who, with his brother, composer J. Rosamund Johnson, wrote the civil rights song, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."  The brothers were born in Florida to an American father, James Johnson, and Helen Louise Dillet, a native of Nassau, Bahamas. Portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 1932.