Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Angel Band" -- a bluegrass gospel tune for Clayville's jam session on Saturday of Holy Week

Since our first Saturday show-jam session at Clayville Historic Site falls during Holy Week this year, let's lead it off with a classic bluegrass gospel number called "Angel Band." It's probably most widely known from Ralph Stanley's vocal in the Cohen Brothers movie O Brother Where Art Thou, but it's an old, old gospel song that got into the shape-note tradition as early as the 1860s.

Lead sheets in D at They're dulcimer tab, but they have the melody in standard notation and guitar chords.

Watch this space for details on next month's "Fake It Till You Make It" workshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 18, in the barn at Clayville Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains. Part of the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music program, this beginner-friendly workshop will feature basic jam session skills for beginning and novice players.

Here's Ralph Stanley singing "Angel Band," in the finale of the Down From the Mountain concert that was held in 2001 in conjunction with recording a soundtrack to go with the movie. Joining him on the chorus in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, along with many, many others who were involved with the movie, are Emmy Lou Harris, Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, the Fairfield Four and John Hartford on fiddle, who emceed the concert.

Footnote: At an earlier stage in his career, Hartford played on the "Julia Belle Swain" on the Illinois River. He died less than a month after the concert after a lengthy battle with cancer.

"Angel Band" has been covered widely, by country artists including Johnny Cash, Emmy Lou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Stanley's original band, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys -- with his brother Carter Stanley on the high tenor part.

But the song itself dates back to the 1860s -- Wikipedia, as usual has the details -- and its melody was written by William Bradbury, a prolific hymn writer who is perhaps best known for "Jesus Loves Me." It was included in William Walker's 1866 shape-note Christian Harmony and is a staple of Christian Harmony singings in Alabama and North Carolina, where I first heard it sung.

Here it is in its natural habitat, at a Christian Harmony singing in Black Mountain, N.C. Nov. 11, 2006. The odd-sounding harmonies are typical of shape-note singing, and some of us believe they're where the "high lonesome" sound of bluegrass originally came from.

Another footnote. also lists a Norwegian translation: Min sidste Sol nu synker st'rk [stærk?]. #d159. Title, or tune name Beskuelsens Land. Evangeliske Psalmer og Aandelige Sange (Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs Nos.1, 2 and 3 Combined)‎. Udgiverens Forlag, Chicago, Ill., 1881.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tunes to practice for founders' day workshop at Jenny Lind Chapel

Tentative playlist for morning session (04-05)
  • O Blessed Morn
  • Hit o Jesu -- Blessed Jesus at Thy Word 151
  • Prepare the Royal Highway
  • Den Blomstertid nu kommer

"Din klara sol." [Again the glorious sun doth rise.] "Din klara sol"; spår 13 från "Psalmer och visor på psalmodikon" med Stockholms Psalmodikongrupp. A quartet playing in parts.

Prepare the Royal Highway / Prepare the Way O Zion

Bereden väg för Herran - N:o 103 i Den Svenska Psalmboken. [Current, not 1819!] Psalmen är inspelad i Mariakyrkan, Växjö, tredje söndagen i advent 2010.

Den blomstertid nu kommer N:o 394

1 The summer days of beauty / in blessedness are come. / The flowers are rejoicing / to feel the gleaming sun / in grace arisen brightly / o’er fields of golden grain / so warm and all restoring, / that nature lives again.

2. The fragrance of the meadows, / the planting in the vale, / the whispers of the forest / through branches green and hale— / these wonders all remind us / how great the stores of wealth / of Him whose hand has made us, / who gives us life and health.

3. Oh, hear the sparrows praise Him / who taught them how to sing— / should not our tongues awaken / and thank Creation’s King? / My soul, take up the anthem / with God’s rejoicing throng / and praise the one who gives you / the lovely summer song.

4. O Jesus, noble Savior, / our source of warmth and light! / Oh, shed Your rays of mercy, / our hearts with love ignite. / When You have set them burning / with holy love for You, / then sin and death are buried / and everything is new.

5. My lovely Rose of Sharon, / come beautify my soul, / and pour the dew of Zion, / the grace that makes us whole. / The Spirit’s light refreshes / uplifting as the dawn, / and robes my soul in beauty / as fair as Lebanon.

6. Bestow abundant harvest. / Oh, bless the planted seed, / that meadows grow abundant / with wholesome grain we need— / oh, let us taste the sweetness / of Your undying Word; / let blessedness and mercy / be shining on us, Lord!

Source: Pierre Radulescu, Den blomstertid nu kommer, Updates, Live. 18 Dec. 2010.

"Blessed Jesus, at Thy word" --

Hit o Jesu, salmons vi, "The Augustana hymnal (1925) has Tobias Clausnitzer's words with a melody LIEBSTER JESU (No. 302) in D minor it attributes to Carl Wolfgang Briegel (1687). Same melody, in Em, in my copy of Johan Henrik Thomander Svenska Psalm-Boken Af År 1819 (No. 328).

Andreas Holmberg's blog Nätkoralboken at
has Psalm 328 in C minor and MIDI file under the heading Käre Jesus, vi är här (alt. koral) [dear Jesus, we are here (alt. chorale)] in a new translation that seems closer to the German…

Be not dismayed thou little flock

Gustavus Adolphus' Krigspsalmen, "Be not dismayed, thou little flock," is No. 378 in Wallin's 1819 psalmbook, No. 390 in the Augustana Synod's 1901 service book and hymnal.

Förfäras ej, du lilla hop --
Tune used in Haeffner's chorale book -- posted by YouTube user Jens Fredborg, played on piano w/ lyrics, in Swedish, of first stanza

The basics are in the Swedish edition of Wikipedia atörfäras_ej_du_lilla_hop:

Also the following:

  • "All hail to thee, O blessed morn"

Psalmodikon pix in Jenny Lind Chapel

David Renneke, webmaster at Jenny Lind Chapel in Andover, Ill., has posted to the chapel's website a set of pictures he took on March 13 of my replica of the Rev. Lars-Paul Esbjorn's psalmodikon.

Demonstrating replica psalmodikon in museum at Jenny Lind Chapel
(please note Esbjorn's original on display case at right of photo)

Renneke's photos show the writer playing the replica, which was made by luthier Steve Endsley of Canton, Ill., and several closeups of the two instruments. Esbjorn's instrument had a single melody string and several resonant strings (resonanssträngar) that produced sympathetic vibrations -- and a fuller tone -- when the instrument was played. To see the photo collection, go to the Jenny Lind webpage at and click on the link that says "Flickr" to the right of the page.

Esbjorn's psalmodikon, which was made in Sweden and obviously is expertly crafted, was donated by the Esbjorn (Osborne) family to the Lutheran church in Andover, which met in Jenny Lind Chapel from 1850 until the present church building (Augustana) was completed in 1870. I commissioned Steve to build the replica so I can demonstrate it at a celebration of the 155th anniversary of the founding of the Augustana Synod, one of the ethnic synods that eventually merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A blurb that I wrote on my presentation for my church newsletter in Springfield follows:

Pete Ellertsen will offer a workshop on 19th-century Swedish Lutheran hymns April 25 at the Jenny Lind Chapel in Andover. Titled “Pastor Esbjorn’s Singing School,” it will feature hymns in a handwritten manuscript in the Augustana College library's collections of papers of the Rev. Lars Paul Esbjorn, a founder of the old Augustana Lutheran Synod, one of the precursors of ELCA. Pete will teach the hymns using a replica of Esbjorn’s psalmodikon (pronounced sahl-MOWD-ikon), a one-stringed box fiddle similar to a mountain dulcimer. The workshop is part of the Augustana Founders Day Reunion April 25-26, a celebration of the 155th anniversary of the founding of Augustana Synod. ELCA presiding bishop Elizabeth Eaton will speak at a service the afternoon of April 26. More information available at

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Martin Luther's hymns in the life of the Nordic people" -- bibliog. entry and 10-page summary

Ten-page English-language summary, by Karl-Johan Hansson, on Hymnologi: Nordisk Tidskrift website at

Bibliographical information, including list of multiple authors and abstract on MacEwan University library website:

Martin Luthers psalmer i de nordiska folkens liv/Die Lieder Martin Luthers im Leben des skandinavischen Völker/Martin Luther's hymns in the life of the Nordic people

Authors: Hansson, Karl-Johan
Selander, Sven-Åke
Harbsmeier, Eberhard

Source: Martin Luthers psalmer i de nordiska folkens liv: Ett projekt inom forskarnätverket Nordhymn
Language: Swedish
Document Type: Article in a collection of essays
Publication Type: Periodical
Publication Date: 2008
Subjects: Nordic countries
hymn societies, associations, fraternities, etc.--internat.
Accession Number: 2008-23610
Database: RILM Abstracts of Music Literature
Abstract: English: A summary of the organization Nordhymn's research project Martin Luther's Hymns in the Life of the Nordic People, carried out from 2002 to 2005. Themes studied included dissemination, theology, liturgy, teaching, music, and society and culture; each is discussed. Markus Jenny's Luthers geistliche Lieder und Kirchengesänge: Vollständige Neuedition in Ergänzung zu Band 35 der Weimarer Ausgabe (cited as RILM 1986-01174) was used as a starting point; of the 45 hymns contained therein, 39 appear in the Nordic tradition.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Spirit Like a River"

A favorite anthem of mine, handed out during choir rehearsal Wednesday at Atonement. Not sure when we'll do it, but rehearsing it will pick up the tempo of these three-hour Wednesday nights in Lent, with a soup supper and meditative service before choir practice.

Spirit, Like a River, by [John Parker and] David Lantz III. Published on Jan 12, 2015 Geneva Presbyterian Church, Laguna Hills, CA. Anthem, 2015-1-11 Chancel Choir; Eileen O'Hern, director; Charlotte Hsieh, piano.

Spirit Like a River, New Spirit Youth Choir. Uploaded on Apr 4, 2011 FUMC-Cary Youth Choir, 2011 choir tour, Alexandria, DC. [First United Methodist Church, Cary, N.C.?]. Testimony and music. Singing begins at 2:10.

Published by JW Pepper. Details at,-Like-a-River/10010907.item#.VQtPa0sspZg. I think it lives up to its blurb:

Your choir and congregation will love this vibrant celebration of the Spirit's power to flow into our hearts as living water, guiding us, reviving us, and nourishing our souls with God's grace. The opening two measures are a quiet, free invocation, and may be sung a cappella: "Spirit, like a river, flow in my heart." Then it abruptly shifts into a steady yet relaxed tempo, following the spirit's nourishing path, as the choir sings in frequent call-and-response. The rhythm accompaniment is a decided bonus, and your congregation will want to sing along!

Lantz' bio at He is a public school teacher and composer in Pennsylvania.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Lee's Waltz" -- a mountain dulcimer tune for this week's Prairieland Strings session that deserves wider recognition

At our last session of the Prairieland Strings, we played a lyrical melody written for Appalachian dulcimer called "Lee's Waltz." It's not just a dulcimer tune, tho'. It lends itself to jam sessions, to ensemble arrangements like the dulcimer and tin whistle duet embedded below, and especially -- did I mention this already? oh let's mention it again -- to jamming. We hadn't played it in quite a while, and several of us didn't know it when the tune was called the other night. But it practically played itself!

It's a favorite in the mountain dulcimer world, and it deserves wider exposure.

So let's play it again at our "third Thursday" session from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 19 ... along with "Walking in the Parlor" (click here for a video and more) and whatever else we call as we go around our circle.

Here's a video that shows Doug Felt, who wrote the tune for his wife Lee, on dulcimer, and multi-instrumentalist Guy George on pennywhistle) on stage at the Buckeye Dulcimer Festival Concert in 2009. Listen for Guy's improvised countermelodies floating above the melody line as they go through the tune a second time:

"Lee's Waltz" is a grand tune, and it stands on its own musically. But it's also a tribute to the Felts, and, in a way, their gentle humor and love of the music. Lee and Doug were fixtures on the dulcimer festival circuit, where they sold Lee's dulcimer bags, music stands and a variety of accessories. So those of us who knew them -- and we all knew them -- were saddened to learn of Doug's death on Oct. 2, 2014.

"We had wonderful celebration of his life including family and many music friends," Lee reported on their website at "We did it exactly as he wanted. He would have been so pleased."

That web address is a characteristic touch of humor. The business they established is formally known as Thistledew Acres, but Lee makes dulcimer bags, and she became known as the Ohio Dulcimer Bag Lady. Doug, for his part, sometimes answered to Mister Bag Lady. Lee said the business will continue:

We promised him that we would continue the business, and we are. Daughter Toni Binkley, her husband Steve, and granddaughter Claire will help me continue the business. Steve is doing all the woodwork. Toni and Claire are helping me with the sewing so that I can continue to go to festivals.

Mike Thomas, who used to play with our groups in Springfield and has now become a snowbird, says Lee is carrying out that promise.

"Good to see you are still playing Lee’s Waltz," Mike said in a recent email. "Doug would have loved hearing it. ... Kathy and I did get to see Lee at the Mt. Dora (Florida) Dulcimer and Autoharp Festival a couple of weeks ago. She seems to be doing well. Her son-in-law is doing the woodwork she needs to have done and daughter the sewing so she can keep the Thistledew Acres business going."

Mountain dulcimer tab is available on line as a PDF file on the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association website at:

(scroll down and click on "Lee's Waltz").

Here's another YouTube version, as played by the snowbird Thomases, Mike on dulcimer and Kathy on autoharp. The cartoon effect, BTW, is Kathy's. "I was editing this video and thought this effect was kind of cool :)," she explained on YouTube:

And here's the song in its natural habitat, as played by the Village Strings dulcimer club at the Plymouth Farmer's Market, Plymouth, Mich., on July 26, 2014.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

I Jesu navn skal all vår gjerning skje -- Norwegian psalm in Esbjorn sifferskrift mss.

Title here is in modern Norwegian -- "I Jesu navn skal all vår gjerning skje" translates as "In the name of Jesus shall all our affairs happen." It was a favorite hymn in Danish and Norwegian churches and commonly sung at funerals. It's in Lars-Paul Esbjörn's untitled manuscript notebook of psalmodikon tablature with his handwritten note: Norska Ps No. 19 – “I Jesu namn skall all vår Gerning skee.”

It's in the same box as a set of student grades at Augustana seminary in Chicago, and I believe he collected this hymn from a Norwegian student and tabbed it out either in Springfield or Chicago. That would date the ms. between 185__, when he left Princeton, and 1862 when he went back to Sweden. -- Lars Paul Esbjörn. Untitled notebook. Esbjörn Family Papers, MSS 1, Box 10, File 4, Special Collections, Tredway Library, Augustana College.

Gammel norsk salmebok no. 081 - I Jesu navn skal all vår gjerning skje


I Jesu navn skal all vår gjerning skje" Salmebloggen 27 Oct. 2013

Salmen er skrevet av danske læreren og salmedikteren Johan Friderichsøn eller også Johan Friederichsen som de kaller ham i Danmark. Salmen ble diktet til hans eget bryllup, nyttårsaften 1639. Vi finner den i Norsk Salmebok som nummer 81 og i Landstads reviderte salmebok som nummer 1 med tre strofer. Det er ofte brukt som nyttårssalme, men vi ser også at flere benytter salmen som en begravelsessalme. First verse:

I Jesu navn
skal all vår gjerning skje
Om den skal bli til lykke og til gavn,
ikke bli til spott og spe.
Vel satt i verk i hans navn,
blir den sterk og salig fremgang får
inntill den målet når.
Gud til ære skal det skje,
daglig skal vi her få se
at vi i hans omsorg står.

Vi har tidligere hevdet at en salme ikke bare er en lyrisk tekst, men også forkynnelse av den kristne tro. Johan Friedrichsen er ikke noe unntak i så måte. Han skrev salmen som motto for sitt liv og sang selv salmen i sitt eget bryllup i Roskilde domkirke. Men hans livsdag ble ikke lang. Johan Friedrichsen ble bare 39 år gammel. Ekteskapet hans ble enda kortere. Johan Friedrichsen døde allerede i 1641 etter bare 1 ½ års samliv med sin kjære.

Danske Salmbog Online, No. 63. lyrics in Danish and MIDI files.

More in Hogfiddle Dec. 7, 2014, at

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Prairieland-Clayville: "Walking in the Parlor," fine old southern Appalachian fiddle tune with a fine old southern Appalachian lilt

Blast email I sent out this afternoon --

March is coming in like a lyin' … oops, better rephrase that! It looks like March is lying to us again -- it's supposed to bring us spring weather, but so far all it's brought us is eight to 10 inches of snow.

The first week of March is also bringing us two of our regularly scheduled slow jams in the Springfield area:

-- Prairieland Strings, 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.

-- Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 7, Clayville Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

Let's kick off Tuesday's session with "Walking in the Parlor." It's a lively old southern Appalachian fiddle tune, with origins in West Virginia. I think it sounds best played with little bit of a lilt, a little oomph on the downbeat like old-time string bands so often do in Virginia and North Carolina. Here it is played by parking-lot pickers (well, it's looks like they're in a campground) at an old-time festival in Virginia:

James Leva - "Walking In The Parlor" (Musicalia 2013)

More information, as well as a link to a hauntingly "measured and tranquil" clawhammer banjo solo -- a cover of a version that traces back to the legendary Hammons family of West Virginia -- on Hogfiddle at

and I've posted the YouTube video to my Facebook page at