Jump to content

Recommended Posts

The Needham Congregational Church was nice enough to let me record the choir singing this.  There were only 9 singers that day, but they did a great job anyway!  

A piece with a gospel/spiritual/tent revival/Sacred Harp/shape note singing feel.  I had great fun with the three-part women's split towards the end.  To be sung at a slow walking tempo, with a strong accent on the downbeat.  I marked an obnoxious number of breaths to be sure that everyone is breathing in time, to help keep the syncopations and the triplet/duplet structure together.  Liberties can absolutely be taken with the soprano part, if performed by a small group with a strong soloist.  

 

It's a mighty rocky road. 

Traveling a mighty rocky road. 

"It's a mighty rocky road," she said, 

"it goes on forever and ever."  

 

(Sweet water divine.  Sweet Savior of mine. 

Oh, my Jesus will find me in time. 

Sweet water divine.)

 

I hear singing down the road. 

Can't you hear them singing down the road? 

"It's a mighty rocky road," she said, 

"it goes on forever and ever."  

 

(Sweet water, etc)

 

All the saints been down the road,

just before me, walkin' down the road. 

"See them walking hand in hand," she said, 

"though the way goes on forever."

 
PDF
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

It is always a pleasure to listen to your works live. I not live they are amazing too, but live is a super-plus.

This piece sounds so familiar... It's funny, I am not an American, but I feel it as a traditional American tune. Of course beatifully harmonised and "counter-pointed".

Writing for vocal is something I'd like to do, but I have to study more. I tried to compose some small pieces for 4 voices, but I always tend to dissonance, even atonality, and don't know if it's OK.

Anyway this is your work and I love it. Thanks, and thanks to the people that sing it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I listened to this a few times, trying to get my bearings as to its origin and destination. It's distinctly American, and one film in particular gradually popped into my head about Appalachia that used similar - almost identical in style - music to fix the viewer precisely in America. The film was Cold Mountain and the scene was in church, and what they sang wasn't Irish exactly, but something different

In my upper level class in college I convinced my English professor to give me a private course designed by the two of us, to present the Civil War in terms of its literature. English was my major. Actually, I have two degrees, music and English. there were other stories I favored over Cold Mountain but she held firm on its integrity. And I began to appreciate the stark poetry therein. Have you read this book? Anyway, this was sealed by the book's almost Christ like depiction of the cretin whose own salvation came from his fiddle that he made out of the wood that came from the hills. In those days everything you produced came from a gift you could not control, let alone conceive of. That's what your chorale reminded me of.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ken, you may have actually heard this one before.  I posted it a couple of years ago, but the transition to the new site structure seems to have eaten the file, so now that I have a live recording, I just re-posted the whole thing for lack of a better solution.  (:  To me the category that fits best is Sacred Harp music, which is a very distinctly Southern American style.  I apparently had a great, great, great uncle who went from town to town selling song books way back when.  Because Sacred Harp was music that was written out into hymnal style books, all verses would have had the same harmonization to save space on the page.  In this case I was writing more of an anthem for a church service, so each verse gets it's own harmonic treatment.  I'm glad it feels so authentic to you all!  I've loved this style of music since a professor first loaned me a set of Smithsonian recordings in college, so I'm glad I've managed to write something faithful to that early American sound.  

(I may have to go back and read Cold Mountain again.  It's been a while.)

Luis, I would love to hear what you would write for choir!  Atonality is absolutely fine these days, for choir as for everyone else.  It's a bit more difficult to learn for choir than for other instruments, since every singer must search within themselves while singing and think about how to get to their next note from the one they are on.  So strong dissonances can limit the number of groups who would be able to successfully perform your work.  But that shouldn't stop you if you have a musical idea that you want to explore!  I'm glad this felt so familiar to you too.  The tune and the text are both my own, but I was trying for something that felt very rooted in tradition.  It sounds like I may have succeeded!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The original Sacred Harp songbook is actually still in print, and there are other out of print ones with similar music that are available in university libraries and places like that.  It's got "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and things like that in it.  A lot of modal music.  There are still Sacred Harp shape note sings today that you can go sing at.  I went to one that Alice Parker lead last summer.  It was a lot of fun.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a fun piece.  Wonderful harmonic twists on "find me in time" both times.  Just enough to make sure everyone is listening.  And even with just 9 singers it works well.

Question,  a number of times, you have embellishments happening on an "r" sound.  I know it's not impossible to do, but I was lead to believe it should be avoided if possible.  Is that just old thinking?  I'm not a vocalist, so I'm not sure.

Thanks for pointing me to the "Sacred Harp".  I found a version on IMSLP and started browsing.  Lots of cool stuff in there.

 

Edited by tmarko
added to post
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

How interesting that you picked up on that, tmarko!  This is exactly the sort of musical style that the rule was invented in response to.  Not doing things like that in classical music is part of what defines classical as classical.  In this case, I feel like it works because it just points out the informality of the style for this piece... that this is in the folk genre.  It wouldn't be appropriate in a formal classical piece, you're right.  But the same thing that makes it wrong there, makes it right here.  The point of the rule is to minimize attention to "ugly" sounding syllables.  But folk music is much less judgey about those sorts of distinctions, and actually kind of revels in them as a way to say, "hi, we're here, and we proudly sound like we're from North Carolina" or where ever.  

Yeah, they really sang the heck out of those triplets, didn't they?  (:  Glad you're enjoying the Sacred Harp.  It's some of my favorite stuff!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...