In 1861, the sight of Northern troops assembling in Washington, D.C. inspired Julia Ward Howe to pen the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which begins, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Although originally intended to stimulate patriotic fervor, the text’s potent depiction of biblical themes – God’s certain and final defeat of evil, the looming eternal judgment of all souls, Christ’s atonement on our behalf, and a clear call to sacrificial evangelism – the work became prominent in many American hymnals. As summer approaches with the major American holidays of Memorial and Independence Days you may be seeking appropriate music to use in recognition of God’s providence and sovereignty. Here is one option for you, my arrangement of Ward’s hymn titled Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, set for trombone/low brass quartet. It’s a short piece, suitable for prelude, offertory, postlude, or other moments in your service, or would make a marvelous addition to a patriotic service or a summer bandstand concert. It is accessible and enjoyable for intermediate and higher level musicians. With rich harmonies and shifting colors, a twist on the traditional meter, and variations in tempo, it is a delight to the ears that underscores the implications of the unvoiced lyrics.
Some would say Oh, Shenandoah is the quintessential American folk song. But almost everything about the song is clouded in confusion and obscurity. When was is written? No one knows. It was first published in 1882 but is almost certainly much older than that. What is it about? Many people associate it with the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia but its lyrics repeatedly refer to the Missouri River which is hundreds of miles from Virginia. Many think that Shenandoah was an Indian chieftain and the song is about a love-sick frontiersman pining for the chieftain’s unnamed daughter. Whatever the case, it’s a song Americans love to hear and to sing. So, when looking for a traditional American tune to arrange for trombone quartet, Oh, Shenandoah was a very natural choice. Listen to this colorful and emotive arrangement for trombone/low brass quartet and see if images of the American countryside don’t spring to mind!