Three Ives Songs
- The Housatonic at Stockbridge
- The Things Our Fathers Loved
- The World’s Highway
Medium voice, violin, cello, contrabass, piano
Download includes license for two copies of score and parts.
Charles Ives (1874 – 1954) became a millionaire as an insurance executive, but he was first a trained musician, an organist, educated at Yale University. But as he said, “an interest in any art-activity, from poetry to baseball, is better, broadly speaking, if held as a part of life . . . than if it sets itself up as a whole.” Ives’s unusual career and unique voice was little noted during most of his lifetime, but he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for Symphony No. 3, which had been written 40 years earlier. By his centenary in 1974, he was recognized worldwide as “the first composer to create a distinctively American art music,” according to Grove Music Online.
“A song has a few rights the same as other ordinary citizens,” wrote Ives in the Preface to the landmark 114 Songs. “If it feels like walking along the left hand side of the street—passing the door of physiology or sitting on the curb, why not let it? If it feels like kicking over an ash can, a poet’s castle, or the prosodic law, will you stop it?” The Three Ives Songs treated here appear as numbers 15, 43 and 90 respectively in 114 Songs, a volume Ives published privately in 1922. In making these arrangements, I’ve faithfully kept Ives’s notes, but freely augmented the textures, which are often too rich for the piano anyway.
“The Housatonic at Stockbridge” sets a poem by Robert Underwood Johnson. The Housatonic River has its source just north of Stockbridge, Mass. It then flows about 150 miles south to the sea. There are several versions of this setting, including one for orchestra without voice. The song is dated 1921. “The Things Our Fathers Loved,” composed in 1917, quotes the hymn-tune “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” but the text is by the composer. Ives collaborated with his wife, Harmony Twichell Ives, on “The World’s Highway,” one of the “Sentimental Ballads.”
Three Ives Songs was premiered in 2016 by the Ladyslipper Ensemble, Sahar Hassan, mezzo.
For more on Ives, read Ladyslipper and Chives in the blog.
The Housatonic at Stockbridge
Contented river! In thy dreamy realm
The cloudy willow and the plumy elm:
From ev’ry dreamy hill
what eye but wanders with thee at thy will,
And yet over-shy
To mask thy beauty from the eager eye;
Hast thou a thought to hide from field and town?
In some deep current of the sunlit brown
Ah! there’s a restive ripple,
And the swift red leaves September’s firstlings faster drift;
Wouldst thou away, dear stream?
Come, whisper near!
I also of much resting have a fear:
Let me tomorrow thy companion be,
By fall and shallow to the adventurous sea!
Excerpted by Ives from “To the Housatonic at Stockbridge” by Robert Underwood Johnson (1858–1937), from Poems
The things our fathers loved
I think there must be a place in the soul
all made of tunes, of tunes of long ago;
I hear the organ on the Main Street corner,
Aunt Sarah humming Gospels; Summer evenings,
The village cornet band, playing in the square.
The town’s Red, White and Blue, all Red, White and Blue;
Now! Hear the songs!
I know not what are the words
But they sing in my soul of the things our Fathers loved.
The World’s Highway
For long I wander’d happily
Far out on the world’s highway
My heart was brave for each new thing and I loved the far away.
I watch’d the gay bright people dance,
We laughed, for the road was good.
But Oh! I passed where the way was rough
I saw it stained with blood.
I wander’d on till I tired grew,
Far on the world’s highway
My heart was sad for what I saw
I feared, I feared the far away, the far away.
So when one day, O sweetest day,
I came to a garden small,
A voice my heart knew called me in
I answered its blessed call;
I left my wand’ring far and wide
The freedom and far away
But my garden blooms with sweet content
That’s not on the world’s highway.
Harmony Twitchell Ives