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S W I N G L O W, SWEET CHARIOT F O R

C O N C E R T

B A N D

S T E V E RO U S E I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N 1 Full Score

3 Bassoon

2 Trombone 2

2 Piccolo

3 Eb Alto Saxophone 1

2 Trombone 3

4 Flute 1

3 Eb Alto Saxophone 2

3 Euphonium (Bass Clef)

4 Flute 2

2 Bb Tenor Saxophone

2 Baritone (Treble Clef)

3 Oboe 1 and 2

2 Eb Baritone Saxophone

4 Tuba

4 Bb Clarinet 1

3 Bb Trumpet 1

2 Timpani

4 Bb Clarinet 2

3 Bb Trumpet 2

3 Percussion 1

4 Bb Clarinet 3

3 Bb Trumpet 3

3 Bb Bass Clarinet

3 F Horn 1

Glockenspiel, Chimes, Crash Cymbals

2 Percussion 2 High Triangle, Med. Suspended Cymbal

1 Eb Contralto Clarinet

3 F Horn 2

1 Bb Contrabass Clarinet

2 Trombone 1

P R I N T E D

O N

A RC H I VA L

2 Percussion 3 Vibraphone, Bass Drum

PA P E R

 M A N H AT TA N B E A C H M U S I C 1595 East 46th Street Brooklyn, New York 11234 Fax: 718/338-1151 World Wide Web: http://www.manhattanbeachmusic.com E-mail: mbmband@aol.com Voicemail: 718/338-4137


For the University of Louisville Symphonic Band and Dr. Eric Becher


P R O G R A M

N O T E S

“SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT”

W

hen I was a child my grandmother often sang to me, usually hymns and popular songs from her own childhood. I remember first hearing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot sung to me by her. In the early 1870’s my

great grandfather emigrated from Germany to the Gulf Coast of Alabama, and later to Mississippi, where in 1887 his daughter, Sophie, was born. My grandmother grew up listening to hymns, spirituals, and popular songs performed by local musicians on the front porch of their home in the small town of Escatawpa, Mississippi. Many songs that she heard were performed by a singing group of African-American friends of her father. These were men who worked at the local sawmill, which he managed. Her older brother’s brass band also was a source of the music she heard. This was a time when recorded music was uncommon, and live performances were how most people experienced music. She had become a natural musician, playing the piano by ear. My witness to her abilities at harmonizing and playing music came much later in her life, when she was between 70 and 90. While her accompaniments were frequently similar in style (a modified stride piano), she was able to harmonize most any melody. Because I assumed as a child that her ability was natural and common, it came as no surprise to me that I was gifted in a similar way. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was popular in the hymnbooks of the Southern Baptist churches of the Deep South, the religious tradition in which I was raised. Like many other spirituals, it was still in the air during the 1950’s and 1960’s of my youth. I grew up playing and singing music in ensembles as diverse as barbershop quartets and rhythm-and-blues groups, and I came to understand through personal experience the influence of spirituals on American popular music at the midpoint of the 20th Century, and well beyond.


AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMPOSE “SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT” FOR BAND

In May 2000, Dr. Eric Becher, former director of the University of Louisville Concert Band, asked me to write, in his words, “a slow, beautiful work in the grade 3 range.” When my publisher suggested that I make an arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, I realized that this spiritual might be a perfect fit for Dr. Becher’s request. When I think of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, what I find most moving and extraordinary is the blend of spirit and earth. By spirit I mean the song’s deep and powerful message of hope. By earth I mean the visceral power of the music — its specific tones and rhythms that resonate within us. Whether the song is performed very slowly or at a brisk pace, its message is never diluted. It only shines in a different light.

CODED SONGS AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is considered to be a code song or coded song, and is one of a handful of spirituals that refer directly to the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was neither a railroad nor underground, but was instead a loose and mysterious web of people and places serving the common goal of helping those bound by slavery to escape. Those fleeing slavery often moved northward from hiding place to hiding place under cover of darkness and disguise. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was a favorite spiritual of Harriet Tubman (1820–1913), who escaped from slavery in 1849 and is widely considered to be the most famous leader of the Underground Railroad, the Moses of those seeking freedom from slavery. In the 1850’s she made many rescue trips into Maryland to help about 300 slaves escape to freedom. Most of the code words in the spirituals refer to escape from slavery; the code words were used to hide the underlying, secret meaning of the lyrics. Coded songs were a way for slaves to share the dream of freedom openly with one another, drawing inspiration and hope from the texts. Without understanding the code, the lyrics appeared to have very different, nonthreatening meanings to the slaveholders.


The refrain and first verse of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, for example, might have been understood in the following ways:

LYRICS

LITERAL MEANING

“CODED,” SECRET MEANING

Swing low,

Come down from above,

Come into the slaveholding states,

sweet chariot,

heavenly vehicle,

the “Underground Railroad,”

Comin’ for to carry me home…

Coming to take me to heaven…

Come to take me to freedom in the North or in Canada…

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?

I looked over the River Jordan (in Biblical Israel), and what did I see?

I looked over the Mississippi River (or the Ohio River), and what did I see? (“Jordan” is the code word for the Mississippi or Ohio rivers.)

A band of angels

A group of angels

The workers of the Underground Railroad

‘comin after me…

coming to take me to heaven…

helping me to reach the North…

REFRAIN:

VERSE ONE:

In another interpretation of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, the lyrics are thought to be a coded reference to the southern Ohio town of Ripley, one of the earliest and busiest “stations” or “depots” of the Underground Railroad. Ripley was the home of John Parker (1827–1900), an abolitionist, former slave, and successful industrialist. John Parker was also a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. To reach the town of Ripley, which sits atop a hill by the Ohio River, fugitive slaves had to wait for help coming from the hill. This scene corresponds to the lyrics that refer to a “band of angels coming across the Jordan River to carry me home.”


T H E

M U S I C

GOAL OF MY ARRANGEMENT

In my arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, I have tried to capture the fervent, devotional character of the spiritual while coloring this more religious expression with an earthiness. In my version, this earthiness is represented by harmonies that some might consider jazz-like. I wanted to create a rich harmonic web that mingled the simple and the sophisticated, without straying too far from the basic impulse of the original song. At times the piece is very simple and pure in heart, and at other times the harmonies become luxurious, with expression that cannot be contained or held back.

GENERAL COMMENTS REGARDING THE PERFORMANCE AND INTERPRETATION

(Below are some suggestions of extramusical images that might be useful to help the performers achieve their best. Also included are descriptions of the musical structures, suggestions for rehearsal issues to consider, and performance suggestions and observations, such as things to be aware of, things to avoid, and things to focus upon.) Try to have the players play through each and every note, using a sustained, connected, full-valued sound. The younger and more inexperienced the group, the greater the challenge to achieve this ideal. It takes considerable skill and experience to play in a true sostenuto style, but this is, after all, one of the most universal ensemble ideals. Younger players often cheat the ends of notes. They want to rest... literally! Try to get the players to think legato and always connected. Only in a few measures of the piece will this sound ideal not apply, such as the staccato parts in measures 40–44. Otherwise, the more long-lined the playing, the better. The tempo markings throughout the piece are approximate, but should be nevertheless relative to one another. That is, a section marked mm = 54 should be slightly faster than one marked mm = 50, even if these exact tempi are not observed. Curiously, a tempo of mm = 50 is actually not as slow as we frequently assume. Of course, it’s not zippy either. A check with a metronome, at least in the beginning stages of rehearsals, might be advisable.


The beginning must be peacefully reverent, but a tempo that is too slow will rob the piece of the needed energy to move ahead. Ultimately, however, each conductor and group will find its own best pace for the piece. Dynamics, as always, are somewhat relative. For example, a dynamic of piano should be the goal at the very beginning of the piece, but don’t worry too much about being really quiet here. A tentative sound is less preferable than one that is confident and accurate, even if it is perhaps a tiny bit too robust. The same can be said for the other quiet parts of the piece. (I personally prefer to avoid a sound that is insecure or hesitant.) In general, the loudness of any dynamic marking should be gauged in the context of the whole piece. Ritardando is used throughout the score as an expressive tool. Where the ritardando is not indicated, I prefer a steady tempo.

DETAILED PERFORMANCE & REHEARSAL NOTES

Introduction (1–2) These opening measures might suggest the image of the descent of a heavenly chariot floating down from above. Because the flutes are just a bit high in measure 1, this image might help them to be lighter and less forceful. Be aware, in the opening sound especially, that several different timbres are initiated at once. Each instrument type has its own attack envelope that causes it to have a tendency to appear earlier or later. For example, the flutes have a softer, less focused attack than the clarinets. This will often result in the appearance (or actuality) of the clarinets arriving earlier than the flutes. Be aware of and listen for this. Often, simply talking with the players about this acoustic phenomenon will help them achieve a more precise ensemble attack. The vibraphone, glockenspiel, and the high triangle generally will have an instant-on attack, as compared to the winds. By discussing this and focusing the players’ attention on these differences, a more beautiful “one instrument” effect can be achieved. Of course, this is not easy, but it’s worth the effort.


Harmonically, this opening passage uses descending parallel major triads falling softly against the Bb pedal tone dominant of the home key of Eb. Practicing the parallel triads without the Bb pedal tone may help the students to hear the structures. Ultimately, however, the Bb pedal tone is the glue that holds the harmonies together. Intonation will improve if this Bb is in the ears of everyone. Try asking the players to consciously focus on the pedal tone while playing their own parts. The ritardando in measure 2 is a rubato-like holding back. The tempo should return immediately to the opening mm = 50 in measure 3. First Refrain (3–10) The solo (or sectional soli) trumpet might represent the condition of hopefulness in the face of oppression. It might also represent the voice of a leader that is echoed by the people — represented initially by the low brass of measures 3–4. If the trumpet solo part is played as such, the soloist might wish to take some liberties with vibrato and expression that would not be welcome as part of a section — still using the correct rhythmic placement, of course. This part should be brought out, especially if played by a single player. If played by the section as a soli, the results will be better if three or more players are on the part. If only two players perform a part, the slight, unavoidable differences in pitch are more obvious. With three or more on a part, these unavoidable, minute differences of pitch can actually become an asset, creating a richness of sound unavailable to a soloist. This phenomenon of a “fattened pitch core” is the same one that makes the string section of the orchestra so beautiful, by the way. Be careful to observe the rubato-like ritardando of measure 6, perhaps stretching just a tiny bit extra on beat four before returning to the opening tempo of mm = 50. A similar ritardando occurs in measure 10. Try to avoid the tendency to slow down prematurely in measure 9. It will also be helpful for a successful and precise arrival of measure 10 if all the instruments playing in measure 9 maintain focus and intensity to the downbeat of measure 10. If the players are thinking of carrying the sound through to the arrival of measure 10, the necessary connection will occur. The phenomenon of diverse attack points will be important also in measures 3–4. The brass chords in this spot are performed by horn, trombone, euphonium, and tuba. In this group, the trombone is the odd man / woman out in the sense that it’s a cylindrical bore


instrument and will have a tendency to speak more quickly than the rest of this group, which are all conical bore instruments. Usually, an awareness by the players of these differences will help to clear up any attack issues at this and similar points. If nothing else, mention of this will get everyone listening carefully, even if they’re just trying to hear the phenomenon in question. First Verse (11–19) The tempo here is marked mm = 54, just a tiny bit faster than the opening, giving a slight sense of moving ahead. Again, an exact tempo of mm = 54 is not required, but I prefer that the various tempi throughout the piece are relative to one another and steady within themselves. There are three principal elements in this passage that must be balanced carefully. The melody is given to first clarinet and first alto saxophone in unison, both of which are marked forte, which is louder than the rest of the ensemble. Extra care must be taken to insure that the melody does not get lost in the many moving lines and diverse parts. The half note is the basic harmonic motion, but within this motion there are several moving countermelodies that are marked mf, and a half-note bass-range motion that is marked mp. Still, everything should be under the melody. All the interior motion should create a rich bed of lush harmonies, but this should never overpower the melody. In measures 14–15, the flutes and oboes (marked at mp and p) support the melody up an octave, and the percussion adds to this arrival, as it does in measure 18. Measures 18–19 are a bridge to the next refrain. The melody of the verse concludes with the first note of measure 18, so the attention should shift to the moving contrapuntal lines. Also, be aware of the ritardando, which pulls the motion back a bit before moving ahead with a metronome marking of mm = 54 at measure 20. Second Refrain (20–28) In these measures, strive for a peaceful, floating quality, building only in measures 27–28. The flutes, oboes, clarinets, trumpets, and glockenspiel perform a seven-part canon of the original melody, while the trombones provide a suspension-filled chordal harmony and Eb pedal tone. The three trumpet parts should be brought out just a bit, but not too much. The three clarinet parts are one beat delayed from the trumpets. The flutes double trumpets 2 and 3 up an octave, and the oboe and the glockenspiel (an octave higher) give the last entrance of the canon.


The static harmonies and the constant sounding of fragments of the melody give this passage something of a dreamlike character. I’ve deliberately kept the dynamics rather flat, and other than the very slight emphasis of the trumpets, the parts should be blended evenly. Melodic fragments will appear to emerge from the texture, depending upon the focus of the listener. This is similar to the observations of clouds drifting by in the sky overhead: viewers see different aspects of the textures depending upon where they focus their attention. Measure 27 begins a two bar crescendo and gradual entrance of the rest of the ensemble. Note that the trumpets don’t participate in this crescendo, but instead maintain the dynamic level of mp. I wanted to give the appearance that the trumpets disappear or become immersed in the texture. Be aware that the instruments that enter in measures 27–28 must count the previous rests very carefully because the floating canonic texture doesn’t give many aural signposts for orientation. Usually, there will be a tendency to become anxious and enter too early. Since there are too many entrances to cue them all individually, the players must count carefully. Second Verse (29–35) The build of measures 27–28 should lead smoothly into measure 29, where the music of the verse returns, now harmonized in quarter and half note motion. After the more static harmonies of measures 20–28, the sense of motion here will feel liberating. Allow this feeling and the accompanying expressiveness to flower. Discussing the feeling and why it occurs might be useful to help the players to know this moment sooner. By knowing, I mean the precognition that happens as the music unfolds. This pre-knowing by everyone in a group is what allows for sudden shifts of tempo, dynamics, and such, and I believe it is also what allows a group to sound as one instrument, to think and feel as one. As in the first verse (measures 11–19), there are several inner moving voices above the harmonic foundation of the lower instruments. The most important of these is the melody in clarinet 1 and alto sax 1, which is doubled an octave higher in the flutes and oboes. Clarinets 2 and 3 also initially double the melody. These doubling instruments sometimes move independently of the melody, creating brief countermelodies and harmonizations. This passage should be full and rich sounding, within the context of an overall ensemble mf. Take care to balance the various dynamics within the ensemble. For example, it would be very easy for the low brass to completely overpower the ensemble.


The passage closes with a diminuendo and ritardando in measures 34–35, reducing the ensemble to quiet, low clarinets and first alto sax. It is in these two bars that the thread of the music is stretched thinnest. Be sure not to stretch it too far by an excessive ritardando — remember, even mm = 44 is not as slow as we sometimes think. Modulating Bridge (36–39) These four bars are the mystery moments of the piece, gradually building the tension that will be so fully released in the final refrain that follows. This passage might be thought of as suggesting a final, perilous uncertainty in the movement toward freedom. Return to the opening tempo of the piece at mm = 50. Too slow a tempo here will result in a passage that drags and doesn’t hold together harmonically. Too slow a tempo here will also make it difficult to hear the sequential patterns of measures 36–38, and it’s this sequence that allows the harmonies to hold together. Keep the passage building throughout so that entering instruments are absorbed gradually into the ensemble. Take care that the euphonium, timpani, and bass drum players count carefully and enter at the right spot, as they add the final building elements that lead to the quarter note pickup to measure 40. Final Refrain (F major) (40–46) For me, this spot is what the whole piece is about and what it points toward: a celebration and majestic exultation. If the image of the journey to freedom is considered, this final refrain might be a kind of hallelujah and rejoicing praise upon reaching that freedom. This section is the most dynamically powerful of the piece, and there are several layers of music that will need balancing. The brass will lead the passage, being the most powerful of the ensemble, but the rest of the ensemble is important, too. There is a lot of activity here, so it’s not practical to try to mention everything. However, several ideas might be highlighted for a better understanding and performance: Consider only the brass for a moment. The structural framework of this passage is composed of the trumpet 1 melody (harmonized by trumpet 2 and 3) and the bass line in


the euphonium and tuba. This framework is filled, in part, by the harmony of the three trombones. The horns supply some melodic doubling and countermelodies, especially the important countermelody climax in the last half of measure 44. While there are doublings and other lines in the rest of the ensemble, the brass can stand alone and convey the core of the musical message. Rehearsing them separately as a section will yield many benefits. The woodwinds provide doubling support for the brass, but also add some different and important countermelodies of their own. The alto and tenor saxophones generally support the horn parts, and may be brought out as needed to help with any weaknesses that might exist. In particular, the previously-mentioned countermelody climax in measure 44, marked soaring, should be very well supported to bring it out clearly. (This is one of my favorite moments of the piece.) Here’s a quick listing of the roles of the other woodwinds. The lowest instruments double the bass line. The clarinets, in part, double the trumpets in a higher inversion, or they support the 16th note flute motion. The oboes generally support the trumpets. The piccolo and flutes (and clarinets at times) create high register rhythmic interest and motion. In measure 44 the piccolo is important, as it creates excitement and a high frame above the ensemble. Notice that there are diverse articulations throughout this passage; be careful to observe these differences. For example, measures 41 and 42 alone contain slurs, regular accents, staccato notes, and accented staccato notes. Care should be taken that the percussion support the ensemble without overpowering it. In this passage, if the percussion distracts the listener’s attention, they are too strong. On the other hand, if they aren’t strong enough, the passage will be robbed of much of its potential visceral impact. Measures 45–56 continue the ritardando begun in measure 44, and introduce a gradual diminuendo and reduction of instrumentation. Note that the ritardando of measure 44 occurs without a reduction of dynamic intensity, which should remain strong until measure 45 begins.


Closing (47 to the end) If the opening two measures of the piece represent the floating, descent of a heavenly chariot, this final section might represent a similar settling into the quiet peacefulness of the experience of freedom, almost like sighs of relief and gratitude. This section is similar to the first two measures of the piece in its materials: falling major triads against a C pedal tone. Many of the same issues are important here, as well: ensemble attack, care with the higher flute tones, and intonation of these shifting harmonies. It is important that the C pedal itself be very well tuned. On a couple of occasions, I have observed a tendency for the C pedal to be prone to intonation challenges, especially the lower octave of middle C. Once again, throughout this section, remember that a tempo of mm = 50 is not as slow as we frequently assume. Guard against letting a too slow tempo make the music ponderous or heavy. The final three bars of the piece present a staggered ritardando to the very end. The last two bars bring a return of the solo (or soli) trumpet and an answer by the lower brass and saxophones. The harmonies of measure 51 may present a challenge to hear. Because hearing and playing the correct notes might require the players’ attention and focus, take special care that the chords are played legato, with a peaceful expression. On the other hand, although the music is marked to be played quietly, I prefer a performance with good intonation and well-supported tones to one that neglects these aspects in favor of dynamic goals. The final measure of the piece might represent an exhalation or Amen in the flutes and clarinet 1, supported by the chime stroke and quiet timpani roll. Collectively, this gesture might be considered one final breath before resting peacefully.

STEVE ROUSE


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PRESERVING OUR MUSIC IT IS IMPORTANT TO PRESERVE OUR MUSICAL HERITAGE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

Acidic paper has been in widespread use since the turn of the century, and has become the bane of archivists, librarians, and others who seek to preserve knowledge intact, because it literally will self-destruct as it ages. Some paper, only three or four decades old, already has become impossible to handle — so brittle it crumbles to the touch. Surely we do not want today’s music to be unavailable to those who will inhabit the future. If the music of the Renaissance had not been written on vellum it could never have been preserved and we would not have it today, some four hundred years later. Let us give the same consideration to the musicians in our future. It was with this thinking that Manhattan Beach Music in 1988 first addressed the needs of the archivist by printing all of its concert band music on acid-free paper that met the standards specified in the American National Standard for Information Sciences — Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials (ANSI Z39.48-1984). The standard was revised on October 26, 1992 to include coated papers; all of our new editions and reprints of older editions meet this revised standard. With proper care and under proper environmental conditions, this paper should last for at least several hundred years.

Technical notes: Paper permanence is related to several factors: The acidity or alkalinity (pH) of the paper is perhaps the most critical criterion. Archival paper (also known as acid-free paper, alkaline paper, and permanent paper) is acid-free, has a pH between 7.5 and 10, is tear resistant, has an alkaline reserve equivalent to 2% calcium carbonate (to neutralize any acid that might arise from natural aging of the paper or from environmental pollution), and contains no unbleached pulp or groundwood (no more than 1% lignin by weight). The specific standards summarized here are set forth in detail by the National Information Standards Organization in American National Standard Z39.48-1992. For more information, contact: NISO, P.O. Box 1056, Bethesda, MD 20827.

This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper)

COVER DESIGN / ART DIRECTION: NEIL RUDDY PRODUCTION: BOB MARGOLIS PRINTING: CHERNAY PRINTING, INC.


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Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for concert band by Steve Rouse  

The conductor score of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for concert band by Steve Rouse

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for concert band by Steve Rouse  

The conductor score of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for concert band by Steve Rouse