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"American Music"

Hi, All.   We're planning our 'American Music' concert for this Spring.  (I did a post about it on here a couple years ago.) And, we're looking for music that is particularly 'American' in nature, AND meant to be sung by groups of people singign together.  Songs that are of uniquely American styles, uniquely American composers, or unique American traditions/genres.  Some examples of what we're doing are below.  What we're looking for are just a few suggestions on pieces, composers or styles we may have missed.  The rnage of the group is full SATB capable (feel free to offer), but I'd love to focus on some more SATB in the program.  Examples below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Example Pieces:
Erb/Bartholomew - Shenandoah
William Walker - What Wondrous Love is This?
William Billings - The Rose of Sharon, Modern Musick
Fisk Jubilee Singers - Let My People Go
Whitacre - Lux Arumqaue
Lauridsen - O Magnum
Copland - Stomp Your Foot
Luboff - Deep River
Amy Beach - Undecided
Dudley Buck - Undecided
Loesser - Stadin' on the Corner
Moses Hogan/Jester Hairston - Elijah Rock
Warland/Shaw-Parker/ F Melius Christiansen/, etc, etc

There are more on the tentative list, but I'd love to hear your suggestions and feedback.   We will have a guest barbershop group, native drummers and shape note singers before the concert.

Thanks, everyone.  I hope you're having a good season!

Christopher J McCafferty
Artistic Director, Illumni Men's Chorale
on January 14, 2013 5:09am
In the sort of American folk genre:
Kirke Mechem - Love and Pizen (poison)
Gwyneth Walker -  A Rose, A Briar and a Bicycle - the last is a great version of Bicycle Built for Two)
G. Walker - Banks of the Ohio 
on January 15, 2013 3:31am
If you can manage women's voices only (SSAA), Beach's "Dusk in June" is quite remarkable.  We (The 24) will be performing it tomorrow night here at the University of York.  And I could offer my own arrangement of "Shenandoah," but I'm sure you'll find thousands of suchlike... 
Good luck!
on January 15, 2013 5:38am
There is an arrangement (with descant) of America the Beautiful at
It might be of interest.
on January 15, 2013 6:58am
Hello Christopher,
I did not entirely understand this statement: "The rnage of the group is full SATB capable (feel free to offer), but I'd love to focus on some more SATB in the program." Sounds like the same thing. But let me try to divine what you meant.
For the barbershop quartet I can offer you a lovely purple harmonization of the Star Spangled Banner with a double whammy ending.
And for thoughtful patriotic American text set in an American style, I have this larger work (you can perform excerpts):'
"Principles" is a powerful half-hour secular oratorio for large SSAATTBB chorus with solo movements for baritone, on themes of liberty, social justice, and religious freedom from texts of Thomas Jefferson. These include the revelatory Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Declaration of Independence, plus his mottos, epitaph, and quotes from two late letters.
Tonal modern/populist in style, tuneful, rhythmic, singable, stirring, "thinking person's patriotic," the work has strong listener impact, and a big inspiring ending—a final peroration on "All Eyes are Opening to the Rights of Man." This is a rousing, major statement, with texts for our times. It can be performed with either piano, piano with percussion, or symphonic wind ensemble. Excerpts are also possible (Declaration movement; Finale)
You can listen to a rehearsal/reading demo with piano of the first half on my website here:
(the National Anthem is also there)
and hear a MIDI demo of the band scoring here:
There are also perusal pdfs there of the p/v score and full score.
I publish in inexpensive .pdf. And I offer educational discount.
Please let me know if this work would be of interest to you.
David Avshalomov
Composer, Singer, Conductor
Special Citation Winner, American Prize 2012/Orchestral Composition
ACDA Silver Platter Award 2012 for Choral Repertoire of Outstanding Quality
Santa Monica CA
on January 15, 2013 8:02am
You might like to look at two of my arrangements:
Woody, SATB, a traditional Appalacian song accompanied by birdcalls
How Can I Keep from Singing? SATB in shapenote style
And The Moth and the Fish Eggs, a complex, lush round setting for SATB of an excerpt of Whitman's Song of Myself
best wishes,
on January 15, 2013 9:46am
Please consider programming something by Jackson Berkey. He has a ton of "American" stuff in his catalog. This is another most wonderful composer that should not be overlooked. Check him out. You will not be disappointed.
Phil Micheal
on January 15, 2013 12:32pm
Hi Chris–
Here are a couple of my very American settings of very American poems:
You may already have these scores, but if not you may download the pdf score and listen to recordings on my website:
on January 15, 2013 5:47pm
on January 15, 2013 11:14pm
You might consider some (or all) of my 4 e e cummings songs.  SATB unaccompanied.
You can look at the score and listen to a recording at the PROJECT:ENCORE database of
Schola Cantorum on Hudson.  Since the premier three years ago, these songs
have won several composition contests, one has been recorded, and they have
been accepted for publication by William Thorpe.  They are American because
the poet and the composer are American; but if you want Americana, then the
last of the songs (Buffalo Bill's) is best suited.
Brian Holmes
on January 16, 2013 5:34am
I would urge you to investigate some of William Schuman's music- he is a wonderful composer whose music is sometimes overlooked.  His "Carols of Death" are unaccompanied settings based on three Walt Whitman texts are wonderful, as are his "Mail Order Madrigals," using texts from a Sears catalog (I could be wrong about the store, but I think it's Sears).
on January 16, 2013 5:36pm
I have a setting of Henry David Thoreau's little-known sonnet "Nature" for SATB (some div.) & incidental T or S solo, a capp.; either separately, or in the context of *Of Nature & Humility* (SATB + SATB, S solo, a capp.) which juxtaposes Thoreau's sonnet with Psalm 131 in Hebrew and English. (This was one of the two works of mine declared finalists in the 2012 American Prize for Choral Composition category).
I have scores & recordings available if this would be of interest.
Robert A.M. Ross
on January 17, 2013 1:23pm
Good Day Christopher,
I invite you to have a look at and listen to a work based on "Walden' - Henry David Thoreau's epic writings on the New England wilderness. Reflections on Walden Pond was commissioned by Pennsylvania's Cantate Carlisle, with the text being excerpted from ‘Walden’ by a professor at Dickenson College. It is some 20 minutes long, and consists of five movements– Woods & Life, The Hawk, Spring Grass, Fishes & Time and To Nature.  The work is available as a complete suite, or as individual movements. It is scored for SATB – with considerable divisi, especially in the sopranos and altos – piano, and optional violin and cello. 
If you are looking for less complex pieces, The Five Seasons – written a decade ago for a combined Vermont and Quebec (Canada) choir – is a setting of poems by Vermont poet James Hayford. It’s movements, like those of Reflections on Walden Pond, reflect the natural world– The Apple Tree in Bloom, Roses Ahead, Autumn, Indian Summer, and Winter.  Two of the movements in particular – The Apple Tree in Bloom and Roses Ahead – are often performed as stand alone pieces.
Excerpts may be seen and heard at:
Donald Patriquin
ACCC Associated Publishers Award for New Choral Music (Canada) 2010
Melodious Accord Award for New Choral Music (Alice Parker, New York)
on January 18, 2013 7:05am
Hi Christopher,
You might consider pieces from my "Shaker Harmony Series" - a choral series devoted to the unique traditions of the American Shakers. You can browse PDF and audio samples here:
Or view these Youtube links:
Lay Me Low
All best,
on January 20, 2013 1:01pm
Hi Christopher,
I have arrangements of the following American folk songs and spirituals:
By and By
Camptown Races
Deep River
Great Day
My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord
Oh, Yes!
Old Dan Tucker
Red River Valley
Rocks on the Mountains
Steal Away
Also, three shape-note hymns gathered under the title An American Thanksgiving.
Please visit my website for more information and several audio clips.
Best of luck with your search,
Carol Barnett
on January 25, 2013 4:40pm
Carol Barnett recommended her "Cindy".  I would second that.
You might look at Michael Larkin's "I Know the Lord Laid his Hands on Me" published by Glory Sound - Shawnee Press.
Also his "Somebody's Knockin' At Your Door" published by Alfred.
Also his "Wayfarin' Stranger" published by Birnamwood Publications.
If Schirmer still has Gail Kubik's "Oh, Dear!  What can the matter be?", it's a wonderful piece of Americana.
on January 26, 2013 6:21pm
I may be mentioning an obvious one here, but nobody has mentioned him yet:  Randall Thompson.  With Frost's poems and Thompson's music, it's Americana at its best.  But maybe you've already done his music on past concerts.  
on January 27, 2013 6:46pm
May I suggest my piece - the text is based on a Navajo prayer -
Thomas Keesecker
on January 28, 2013 5:20am
I remember with pleasure singing Thompson's "Testament of Freedom" - maybe too much of a time commitment among the other works, but a wonderful piece.  Lots of great American composers available, though they don't all scream Americana.
Among my own stuff I have a simple arrangement of Foster's "Hard Times, Come Again No More", SATB a cappella with flute/oboe obbligato.  And there's a just-for-fun pop men's arrangement of "The Fox".  Review copies available at, as well as inexpensive print permissions.
on January 29, 2013 8:03am
Seeing Kirke Mechem's name previously posted reminded me of his American Madrigals.  I haven't heard them performed often, which is a shame, as they poginantly, and playfullly capture the American spirit and character in thier folk-like style.    Three of my favorite make a great set: Kansas Boys, New York Girls, and the very beautiful, He's Gone Away.  Unique, fun, and very creative.
If you want to capture the "old west" consider Shaw's (Shaw-Parker?) setting of The Streets of Laredo (requires a baritone soloist).
Have fun!
Scott Dean
on February 22, 2013 5:09pm
When I hear "uniquely American music meant to be sung by people singing together," my mind immediately goes to the Sacred Harp tradition (which you've mentioned will perform before the concert) and the hymns from the bluegrass gospel tradition - tunes like Sweet Hour of Prayer, Down to the river to pray, Sweet by and by, Amazing Grace, I'll Fly Away, 'Til we meet again, etc.
Best of luck,
on February 23, 2013 6:45am
Adolphus Hailstork is an underated composer. Check out the following works:
Shout for Joy - festival anthem for SATB with brass and organ -
I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes - three-movement cantata for SATB choir with tenor solo and chamber orchestra (or piano)
Nocturne - SATB a cappella -
Go Down Moses - SATB with baritone solo a cappella
Those are some of my personal favorites. He's almost exclusively published by Theodore Presser.
on February 24, 2013 5:54am
Christopher -- Great that you are doing this program and that you have gotten so many terrific suggestions!  For your Dudley Buck "undecided," I'd suggest "Hymn To Music" for SATB a cappella, which Walton publishes in a Library of Congress edition.  There are also accompanied Buck motets like the excellent "I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes" that you can find free online in an 1864 edition.
May I suggest three compositions of mine that fit the "Americana" bill?  
"A Few Plain Hints:  William Walker's Words for Singers" is several short movements for SATB (some with sololist, all better with optional piano).  You could perform a few of these and make a nice tie-in to the shape-note singing, since the text comes from "The Southern Harmony."  The advice is mostly good, and the piece is definitely humorous!
"Old American Beauties:  Five 19th-Century Parlor Songs" arranges these fine songs:  Aura Lee, The Captain, Katy Bell, Reuben & Rachel, and Sweet Genevieve.  A cappella, three are SATB and one for SS(A)A and one for T(T)BB.  Light-hearted, sometimes funny.  Again, you could perform just a few.
"Sweetest Music:  Three Shaker Settings" offers SATB a cappella versions of To The Spirit Land We're Hastening, Sweetest Music Softly Stealing, and Blest Zion.  The first and third would be fine for a spring concert.  They are not hard but still interesting and popular.  While you'll find many Shaker tunes (including excellent ones I love mentioned above), these songs are not widely known but worth hearing.
Best luck with your program.  Let us know how it goes!  
Christopher J. Hoh
on February 26, 2013 4:52am
Lots of arrangements of "Simple Gifts" out there.   Howard Helvey's "When For Eternal Worlds We Steer" is also quite lovely.
on February 26, 2013 11:05am
Also, I love John Coates, Jr.'s "Amazing Grace."  
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