Variations on “Jerusalem the Golden” (1888)
CHARLES IVES 1898 (1874-1954)
(arr. Keith Brion)
Charles Ives was a church organist at age thirteen and later entered Yale University, where he studied composition with Horatio Parker. Charles Ives’ most important musical influences certainly included his experiences as the son of a Civil War Bandmaster, George Ives, and the various band musics that he performed in his father’s band in Danbury, Connecticut. Although the younger Ives was born ten years after the close of the Civil War, his brass composition, Variations on “Jerusalem the Golden,” is an accurate representation of the sounds and performance practices of his father’s Union army band.
“On certain national holidays, such as Washington’s or Lincoln’s Birthday, or the Fourth of July, it was usual for several bands from the country nearby to join under George Ives’ leadership in Danbury, and he would sometimes try breaking them up into sections that were stationed about, one perhaps up in the church steeple, another on the roof of the Danbury News Building on Main Street, and a third on the village green. Each section would play, in turn, a variation on Greenland’s Icy Mountains or Jerusalem the Golden specially composed for it.”1
“I always do Jerusalem the Golden on the cornet, first meeting. Knocks ’em cold...I can get more sinners weeping on Eb cornet than nine gospel artists...!”2
Charles Ives is thought to have written as least ten pieces specifically for band. Of these, only the marches Omega Chi and Intercollegiate exist in a completed form. Except for a portion of Runaway Horse On Main Street, the original versions of the others are thought to be lost. Fantasia on Jerusalem the Golden is one of the lost manuscript pieces. This arrangement uses another Ives work, Variations on “Jerusalem the Golden,” to recreate the Fantasia. The Variations was probably composed for organ, although some of the passages appear to be unplayable on that instrument. The music was thought to have been composed in 1888 when Ives was fourteen, and the possibility exists that the score was a sketch for a missing band piece. The tune Jerusalem the Golden is typical of the New England hymn tunes that were part of the fabric of Ives’ musical vocabulary. The band of Ives’ day, as exemplified by the marches, used a group of small-bore 19th-century instruments, less full in the middle and bass than the modern concert band. In this reconstruction by Keith Brion, a small village brass band is contrasted in concerto grosso style with a modern concert band, whose scoring more approximates the fuller sound of Ives’ symphonies.
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