The American Spiritual - Part II
Marie Stultz, Contributing Editor
In the last issue of The Choral Room, The American Spiritual~Part I explained that European writing and religious music influenced the American white revivalist movement. That influence evolved into what is known as the white spiritual. During revival meetings, songs influenced by these forces were heard by converts of all ethnic backgrounds. More metric in nature than their later black counterpart, the white spiritual took its significant place in early American music history.
When working to convert Negroes in revival meetings held in the South, this spontaneous music, which conveyed the evangelists' spiritual beliefs, made an enormous impression on their black converts. The white spiritual spawned hundreds of black soul songs that were generally more melancholy in nature and became known as the African-American spiritual.
Whether of white or black origins, spiritual acclamation and improvisation are two key features in the identification of the American spiritual. That they were mostly communicated through oral traditions also helps to identify them. The American revivalists were not the only movement to create white spirituals; the American Shakers also made an enormous contribution to this
The White Revivalist Movement, England and the American Shakers
The shakers (Shaking Quakers) took their roots from a movement conceived by an obscure woman in 18th century England. Known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second, this sexually abstinent movement began to establish itself in America about 1774 through the leadership of Manchester, Massachusetts resident Anne Lee. The Shakers were known for their dancing and exaggerated movements while singing improvised songs during their
At the time the Shaker movement began to establish itself in America, the white revivalist spiritual slipped a bit into obscurity. This changed in 1805 when Jeremiah Ingalls, who was a New England farmer, tavern keeper, and tunesmith, re-established the American folk-hymn-spiritual movement with the publication of his famous arrangement "Innocent Sounds," for SAB voices in a collection of early psalmody. In this setting about music being the source of evil, This naïve, prolific composer demanded the Godly plundering of carnal love and the spiritual freeing of music expression. The refrain of this wonderful tune based on the reworking of "The Devil's Nine Questions," goes:
"Strip him of every moving strain,
O every melting measure;
Music in virtue's cause retain,,
Risk the holy pleasure!"
I have a personal connection to this song. For the 350th anniversary celebration of the town of
Andover, I was commissioned to arrange this very unusual tune for The Treble Chorus of New England to be performed at a concert at Phillips Academy. William Thomas, head of the music department, knew the tune and offered a one page manuscript as a resource. I only recently came to appreciate the importance of this setting as it pertained to the history of the American Spiritual. Ingalls' collection was praised by George Pullen Jackson who helped rediscover the white spiritual and worked to keep the form alive through the 1800's. The movement reached its fullest growth between 1800-1860, when the Shaker communities were rapidly developing across the Eastern seaboard.
The Origins of the Shaker Spiritual
Like the revivalist songs, the Shakers were influenced by music from England, in particular the carol form which was originally used for dancing. Their popularity was so great that Christmas texts were put to many tunes everyone knew. The Shakers were also influenced by the Methodist and Baptist movements whose members traveled from England and Europe to America's shores seeking religious freedom. During the 1800's no more than 4,000 to 6,000 people belonged to the various Shaker communities. During that time fewer than 200 Shaker tunes were created, most set to nonsense syllables or sung as songs without words. Living in self-sustaining villages, they remained celibate throughout their religious life.
Most of the tunes were not notated and seemed to come from the amateur composer's spiritual soul. Descriptions of Mother Ann sitting in a chair while moving and gesturing freely as she sang her music which seemed to originate from God himself were common stories when discussing the sources for the various tunes. Shakers prior to 1840 had very little knowledge or formal music training. Most of them composed by sensation rather than through the rules or knowledge of major or minor scales. Many were composed in minor and generally appeared in the Dorian mode. Notating Shaker music was quite troublesome because of the lack of metric pulse and the extreme use of quavers and ornaments sung spontaneously as the singer danced and shook to the inspiration felt in the music. Dance was very important to the music, thus metric decisions became critical when notating the various tunes with and without words.
The most famous Shaker spiritual known the world over is "Simple Gifts." Attributed to Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. of Alfred, Maine, who wrote the piece in 1848, the piece became the basis for Copland's famous Appalachian Spring. Some other important tunes in the Shaker spiritual tradition are: The Promised Land, That Beautiful City, The Happy Voyage, The Moles Little Pathway, The Sixteenth Day of January, Voyage to Canaan, The Living Vine, and I'll Come into the Valley.
One of the most definitive resources on this subject is The Shaker Spiritual, by Daniel W. Patterson, Dover Books, 0-486-41375-6 ($27.95) This is a comprehensive book on this unusual and fascinating music movement. An extensive bibliography is included with well documented footnotes that will lead the reader to even more revelations on this important religious and musical movement in America.
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New Releases ~ Sacred
SATB Voices ~ Sacred
An American Kedushah, arr. Alice Parker, Hebrew/English text, Transcontinental, 993125, SATB (divisi) a cappella with tenor & mezzo soli. Commissioned by the American Guild of Organists, the piece is conceived to weave between the two cantor parts and chorus with chant-like rhythms and melodies. The English text translated by the composer follows the original Hebrew. Incorporating the Chassidic folk tune V'eyneinu Tirenah, this 13-minute work is brilliant in conception and mesmerizing in sound as it leads the untrained ear into the beauty of Hebrew music and poetry. This piece is one of Parker's finest hours. Translation, pronunciation and further explanation on the work's creation are included in Parker's performance notes. Difficulty rating 4. $3.00
Ave, dulcissima Maria (from Regina Coeli), by Julian Wachner, Latin text, ECS, 5811, SATB a cappella. This wonderful setting of this famous Latin text is quite elegant and profound in its harmonic and rhythmic expression. The anthem opens with shimmering harmonies whose text greets the virgin Mary. The musical gesture quickly changes to more powerful harmonies that carefully express the text. In general, the rhythms and harmonies become more complex with each phase shape. After the complexity intensifies, each section concludes in organum-like harmonic style reminiscent of the late medieval period. Ave, sulcissima Maria is the fourth movement of a larger work entitled Regina Coeli. The 15 minute work (ECS 5832) has a piano reduction and can be performed with either small or large orchestra. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.65
Gloria, by Giacomo Puccini, Latin text, MorningStar, MSM-50-1600, SATB, brass quartet, & organ. The first movement of the Messe di Gloria written in 1876, the piece has been shortened by editor Michael Burkhardt. The middle section of this large movement has been eliminated to better accommodate the typical church service. Scored for brass quartet and organ, the brass parts can be ordered separately. Typical of Puccini's church music style, the powerful musical gestures and dramatic text setting will please any congregation. Difficulty rating 3. $2.00
Laudate Nomen, by Carlyle Sharpe, English text, ECS, 5783, SATB & organ. This piece is the winner of the 2000-02 AGO/ECS Award in Choral Composition. It opens at the spirited tempo of 120 with some trumpet-like passages that contain some terse harmonies. These passages are alternated with warm, homophonic passages that contain some harmonic and rhythmic challenges. The piece requires an accomplished choir and organist. It would best be performed in a cathedral setting with a large organ. Difficulty rating 4. $1.95
Lord, for Thy Tender Mercy's Sake, by Richard Farrant, English text, Hal Leonard, 08301649, SATB (opt. organ) a cappella. This particular edition of this famous Elizabethan anthem is beautifully done by Dr. Peter Aston. Using MS sources from Christ Church in London and other sources, he has constructed a very authentic edition of this mostly homophonic motet. Extensive editorial notes are included in this well researched edition of this enduring anthem. Difficulty rating 3. $1.85
Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers, arr. K. Lee Scott, English text, MorningStar, MSM-50-0032, SATB & organ with opt. congregation & brass quartet. A majestic setting of this Swedish folk hymn, this is another alternative arrangement of this popular tune. Filled with festive harmonies and bright counterpoint, the brass parts support the congregational singing. Accomplished brass players are required for an arrangement that ends with spectacular rhythms and harmonies as the choir concludes with the repetitive words "rejoice!" Difficulty rating 3. $1.90
My Soul Exalts Your Name, O Lord, by Heinrich Schütz, English text, Augsburg, 0-8006-7524-X, SATB & organ. This edition by Robert Buckley Farlee is not for the music purist. It is included as an ideal edition to introduce the choir to the great choral music of Heinrich Schütz. Ideal for the small church choir or on a Sunday when the professional is faced with smaller forces, the piece alternates between unison passages written in octaves and expressive four part harmony typical of Schütz's harmonic style.Difficulty rating 3. $1.30
On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, by Richard Wienhorst, English text, ECS, 5772, SATB & keyboard or harp. This simple setting of a John Milton text is ideal for the SATB chorus of small forces. The sopranos and altos sing both in unison and two parts while alternating with the tenors and basses who do the same in a change of key. The simple four-part conclusion is joyous but there is enough doubling that a solo quartet could handle the voice writing. Perfect for the Sunday after Christmas, the piece is quite effective. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.65
Shepherds and Angels, arr. Alice Parker, English text, ECS, 5737, SATB a cappella. Parker continues to explore American hymnody with three harmonically simple but effective text settings. Two are written by Isaac Watts with the middle movement set to a text by Nahum Tate. The English influence over American hymnody seems to be equally present in this form as we find it in the spiritual form. What is so wonderful about these arrangements of Behold! the grace appears, While shepherds watched their flocks by night (Als Hirten sassen in der Nacht ), and Joy to the world, the Lord is come (Lingham) is Parker's respect as a researcher determining how she will set the music. The tunes and text seem to dominate the choral and
rhythmic fabric, adding a tremendous authentic feeling to all three movements. This set of pieces is highly recommended for choirmasters who want to introduce their choirs to the Early American hymn form. Difficulty rating 4. $2.95
Veni Creator Spiritus, by Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806), Latin/English text, Presser, 312-41784, SATB & keyboard (opt. chamber orchestra). Composed in Salzburg on August 26, 1782, this Gregorian hymn text is appropriate for the Feast of Pentecost. Typical of the period, this motet is written in simple and concise musical style so popular in the period. This edition is based on an MS found in the Erzabtei St. Peter archive. The keyboard accompaniment by editor David Stein is a reduction of the instrumental parts for small forces. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.85
Why Art Thou So Heavy, O My Soul?, by Orlando Gibbons (c1583-1625), English text, Hal Leonard, 08301651, SATB a cappella. This wonderful motet shows the mastery of Gibbons contrapuntal style. The piece demonstrates total understanding of harmonic structure and counterpoint in that each phrase concludes with an uncanny musical unity in the voice parts.This edition by William Lock is beautifully prepared. The accomplished choir will find this motet a joy to sing. It is based on words from Psalm 43. Difficulty rating 3. $1.60
Extended Work ~ SATB Voices
Great Is the Lord, arr. Andrew Carter, English text, MorningStar, MSM-70-004A, SATB, opt. unison, junior choir, solo baritone & soprano, opt. congregation, & organ or opt. instruments. This 12-minute work is ideal as service music as well as a short cantata form where the congregation and junior choir can participate. One of the five movements,Thou Art the Vine, is scored for handbells and is published separately as a choral score MSM-50-8504a. The other selections contained in this fine service cantata are Great Is the Lord, For the Beauty of the Earth, The Lord Is Gracious and Merciful, and I Am the Vine. Difficulty rating 3-4. $5.00
Treble Voices ~ Sacred
Missa, by Rhona Clarke, Latin/English text, Santa Barbara, SSA voices & keyboard. This 23-minute mass for treble voices is published in four separate movements: Kyrie & Gloria (SBMP 420), Credo (SBMP 421), Sanctus (SBMP 422), and Agnus Dei (SBMP 423). A real stellar, this is the first original extended work this editor has seen of such bright and profound qualities for treble voices. In compositional gesture and quality, it equals the Missa Brevis in C of Imant Raminsh. Both extended works were written in this past decade. Filled with wonderful antiphonal sections of motivic kernels that move from voice part to voice part, the movements are loaded with rich yet challenging harmonies. The brightness of some movements are contrasted with more profound harmonic gestures. Changing meter signatures, wonderful text painting, and effective accompaniments dominate the entire work. Commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland, this Dublin born composer has a bright and prolific future. Difficulty rating 4. $1.50-2.00
Sing Noel (Au Saint Nau), arr. Marie Stultz, English/French text, MorningStar, MSM-50-9926, SA divisi & keyboard. Based on one of the oldest existing noels of French origin, this carol is strophic in nature. Taken from a 15th century manuscript, this arrangement has been carefully crafted in keeping with the Renaissance period. Young singers will love the beauty of the phrase shapes, the joyful melody and harmonies, as they tell the simple story of Christmas. Set in both English and French, a French pronunciation guide is included in the edition. Based on the Julien Tierson collection of carols entitled Noels francais published in Grenoble in 1901, the French is set in the Poitiers dialect. The joyful conclusion of this great carol will simply put audiences and congregations on their feet. A teaching tool and historic data is included in the edition by the arranger. Difficulty rating 3. $1.90
Steal Away, arr. J. Edmund Hughes, Latin/English text, Santa Barbara, SBMP 429, SSA a cappella. This is one of the more unique settings of this great spiritual. Incorporating a chant-like statement of Kyrie eleison, Hughes has incorporated the plea for "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy" over the works "steal away to Jesus" in a truly unique and effective way. One gets the feeling of the white spiritual movement (although this chant is taken from the Liber usualis of the Roman Catholic Church) with the more simple human cries and the impassioned pleadings of the African-American spiritual. The arrangement is just magical and requires a treble voice choir with a lot of control and vocal prowess. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.40
Yerushalayim, arr. Joshua Jacobson, Hebrew text, Transcontinental, 982018, SSA, soprano solo, & piano. A simple but effective setting of this Israeli folksong, the piece talks of intense feelings of longing and belonging to Jerusalem. The soprano solo requires a singer of pure sound and bright clarity. The solo is set against simple choral and piano parts. A pronunciation guide and translation are included in the edition. Difficulty rating 2-3. $1.75
SAB Voices ~ Sacred
"Riu, Riu, Chiu," Manger Birds Are Winging, arr. Hal H. Hopson, English text, MorningStar, MSM-50-1091, SB mixed voices & keyboard (opt. tambourine). Written in a lilting Hopson style, this 16th century Spanish carol works quite well on this voice combination. The addition of the tambourine will add to the piece's authentic Spanish flavor. Translated from the Spanish by the arranger, this charming and accessible setting tells the story of the nativity with joy and awe. Difficulty rating 2. $1.75
Men's Voices ~ Sacred
Laudate Pueri, by Felix Mendelssohn, Latin text, Santa Barbara, SBMP 433, TTB & piano or organ. Edited for men's voices by Peter A. Eklund, this great motet originally written for trebles is quite effective on men's voices. The long contrapuntal phrase shapes will sound quite warm and rich on men's voices. Although edited from the original MS for trebles, it has carefully been transcribed for men's voices. Historic notes, translation, and information on the composer are included in the edition. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.50
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New Releases ~ Secular
SATB Voices ~ Secular
The Gloucestershire Wassail, arr. Michael Neaum, English text, Theodore Presser, 392-01069, SATB (divisi) & piano. The opening "Wassail" soon divides into verses between the men and women. The a cappella middle section in four parts contains some fine counterpoint and effective harmonies. The piece concludes with some wonderful musical humor, so in keeping with the spirit of the tune and the text. Another fine arrangement by Neaum, the singers and audience will have a great time with this one. Difficulty rating 3-4. $2.75
Innocence & Experience, by Matthew Harris, English text, Hal Leonard, 50484154, SATB a cappella. In typical Harris style, the use of repetitive motives between the voice parts dominate the phrase shapes and often the interval relations. Surprising harmonies and some wonderful counterpoint are written effectively to express the meaning of these three William Blake texts. Composed for the Nantucket High School Chorus, these challenging pieces are entitled The Sick Rose, The Lamb, and The Tiger. Commissioned by an accomplished high school choir, these pieces are difficult but extremely gratifying. Often the parts are written divisi, which will be more artistically successful with a large, gifted chorus. Difficulty rating 4-5. $1.95
Three Japanese Folksongs, arr. Misuzu McManus, Japanese text, Santa Barbara,
SBMP 440, SATB, piano, flute or oboe, & bell. These charming folk melodies in the form of two lullabies and a child's play song are anonymous tunes that are hundreds of years old and in all likelihood written by poor nannies. All three arrangements use the traditional pentatonic scale along with Western voice leading. These fine arrangements are a wonderful addition to the Japanese repertoire. A comprehensive pronunciation guide, translation, and historic data by Anna Hamre, Director of Choral Activities at California State University in Fresno, make these pieces more than approachable with choirs who enjoy singing music of all ethnic backgrounds. Difficulty rating 3-4. $2.05
We Are the Music Makers, by Alice Parker, Hal Leonard, O8711363, SATB a cappella. Set to a text by Arthur O'Shaughnessy, this three-minute piece is a terrific concert opener. Filled with changing meters in 6/8 and 9/8, this fine music celebration was written for the Richmond Choral Society on Staten Island, New York. It is ideal for school, festival, or amateur adult singers. The entrances of the various voice parts must be carefully examined and explained in the teaching process. The rhythms also get a bit complex and must be carefully drilled for accuracy. The counterpoint between the voice parts are a challenge, but the piece is terribly effective with a wonderful spirit about it. Difficulty rating 4. $1.50
IRISH FOLK SERIES ~ SATB Voices
This series from ECS is quite fascinating. The authenticity of the arrangements is without question. David Mooney hails from Sligo, Ireland. Born in 1964, all of his formal education has been in Ireland. He finished a Ph.D. in Musicology in 1999 from University College Dublin. Each edition contains a translation and an IPA guide. This is an extremely important collection of authentic Irish folk music that has obviously been arranged by a scholar.
Don Oiche Úd l mBeithil (I Sing of a Night in Bethlehem), arr David Mooney, Irish dialect, ECS, 5929, SATB, soprano solo, harp or keyboard. Difficulty rating 3. $1.65
Dúlamán (Seaweed), arr David Mooney, Irish dialect, ECS, 5925, SATB a cappella with opt. percussion. Difficulty rating 4. $2.40
Rakes of Mallow, arr David Mooney, English text, ECS, 5934, SATB a cappella. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.95
'S i do Mhaimeo i (She's your granny), arr David Mooney, Irish dialect, ECS, 5928, SATB a cappella with opt. percussion. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.95
Sauntrai na Maighdine (The Virgin Mary's Lullaby), arr David Mooney, Irish dialect, ECS, 5930, SATB & harp or keyboard. Difficulty rating 3. $1.95
Thugamar féin an Samhradh linn (We brought the summer with us), arr David Mooney, Irish dialect, ECS, 5926, SATB a cappella. Difficulty rating 3. $1.65
Wexford Carol, arr David Mooney, English text, ECS, 5936, SATB a cappella with soprano solo. Difficulty rating 4. $1.95
A Round..Around and Around! A Collection of Rounds, arr. Michael Burkhardt, English text, MorningStar, MSM-50-9927, unison voices & keyboard, opt. Orff instruments. These rounds are perfect for the public school classroom. Each round includes a teaching tool by the arranger. The Orff ostinati are quite easy and graduate a bit in difficulty. They range from 3 to 5 layers to add texture to the singing of the round as you develop students' melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic skills. The beauty of these accompaniments is that once grasped by the young player, they can be played together and will be quite effective in a live performance. Included in the collection are: A Merry, Laughing Round; Have You Any Work for a Tinker; Kukuriku; Like Birds of a Feather; The Cuckoo; and Who'll buy My Posies. Difficulty rating 2. $1.90
Die Lotosblume (The Lotus Flower), by Robert Schumann, German/English text, Shawnee Press, YS0800, SSAA & piano. Originally a solo song from op. 15, this arrangement for SSAA voices is effective. Arranged by Jill Gallina, the choral parts carefully follow the original piano accompaniment by Schumann. The piece is set to a German poem by Heinriche Heine. The choral parts are written homophonically and simply fill in the harmonies of the piano part. This is not for the purist, but an effective arrangement. Difficulty rating 3. $1.40
The Smoothing Iron, arr. Kenneth Neufeld, English text, Boosey, M-051-47322-9, SSA & keyboard. This traditional English work song is actually a story of a young lad who dreams of his love working through her chores on a day-to-day basis. Because the folksong is strophic and repetitive in form, the arranger has varied the setting with fine descants and interesting partwriting. As each day's tasks increase, variations in the melody change to reflect the tasks of the love of his dreams. Moving from a simple first verse declaration, each verse becomes more challenging in nature. Requiring an accomplished choir that can perform some subtle artistic distinctions, this arrangement takes a simple tune and made it into a very artistic declaration of young love. Difficulty rating 4. $2.95
Vocalise, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, syllable text, Hal Leonard, 08301644, S (opt. A) & piano. This famous vocalise was originally written for professional solo soprano and orchestra. This arrangement for two-part voices requires an extremely accomplished choir with perfect unison. A wonderful way to expose the young singer to this great music, the students must understand the subtle rhythms and artistic gesture of the melodic phrases. This arrangement is not for the faint of heart. Allan Robert Petker's arrangement works, but must be performed by the most skillful of choirs that can sing a perfect unison. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.50
Men's Voices ~ Secular
The Water of Tyne, arr. Michael Neaum, English text, Theodore Presser, 392-01070, TTBB voices & piano. This fabulous arrangement with a hypnotic accompaniment was originally arranged for treble voices. Neaum has now adapted his fine arrangement for men's voices, which will lend a different color musically but which will offer an excellent musical effect. The arpeggio accompaniment describing moving water just adds to the beauty of the melody. Originally written in three parts, a lower bass part has been added to this arrangement, which deepens the setting of this text about true love. Long phrase shapes and timeless counterpoint dominate this adapted setting. Difficulty rating 3. $2.75
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