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WorksChoral MusicMixed ChorusLong Time Trav'ling

Long Time Trav'ling
Fantasy on American Sacred Harp tunes

Voicing: SATB a cappella, tenor duet, with "shape-note style" semi-chorus
Text: Traditional American (19th c)
Duration: 4:15 min.
Premiere: May 7, 2005; The Singers--Minnesota Choral Artists
Published by: Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Cat. No. SBMP-702
See the score: PREVIEW THE SCORE (scorch)


Also: mp3, 4:00, 4 MB
Performed live by The University of Minnesota Chamber Singers, conducted here by Stan Rothrock.


This arrangement, which combines two popular songs from the early American shape-note singing tradition, is meant to incorporate two of the tradition's most important aspects: community singing and religious expression. All three texts, about traveling to a better land and leaving friends behind, are from 19th century shape-note hymnals. The first tune was published in 1855 in the Social Harp with the title Parting Friends, but the melody is much older: a variant of the Irish Wayfaring Stranger. The second tune is entitled White, after B.F. White, compiler of the Sacred Harp. Some additional verses of text come from the 1835 song, Parting Hand. Because it was the intent of the early shape-note composers to write vocal lines that could "charm even when sung by itself," the counterpoint in this piece serves to depict the individual travelers as they go their own way, with their own tunes, and then come back together on the grander journey toward the promised land.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Peter Maller, who believed in people, in community, and was a long time traveler himself.

Texts: Long Time Trav'ling

Farewell, my friends, I'm bound for Canaan,
I'm trav'ling through the wilderness;
Your company has been delightful,
You, who doth leave my mind distressed.

I go away, behind to leave you,
Perhaps never to meet again,
But if we never have the pleasure,
I hope we'll meet on Canaan's land.
- Parting Friends (traditional tune and lyrics)

Farewell, my friends, both old and young,
I hope in peace you'll still go on;
How oft I've seen your flowing tears,
And heard you tell your hopes and fears!

Your hearts with love were seen to flame,
Which makes me hope we'll meet again.
Ye mourning souls, lift up your eyes
And live in love, for love's alive.
- Parting Hand (lyrics by John Blain 1818, edited and revised by A. Betinis)

I'm a long time trav'ling here below,
I'm a long time trav'ling away from home,
I'm a long time trav'ling here below,
To lay this body down.

Farewell, my friends, whose tender care
Has long engaged my love;
Your fond embrace I now exchange
For land I know not of...
- White (tune by Edgar Dumas 1856; lyrics from Dobell's New Selection 1810; revised A. Betinis)

These texts, to the best of my knowledge, are in the public domain, and may be reprinted from this website for use in concert programs and for promotional use as related to this musical work.


The composer highly recommends listening to examples of shape-note singing before performing this piece. (Both tunes can be found on the excellent CD "Rivers of Delight" by the Word of Mouth Chorus.)

The solo tenor lines and soli section mm. 28-33 should be sung in the shape-note style: folky, strongly, and in straight-tone. Plant your feet and sing!

All grace notes should be sung on the beat.

The recurring [mm] quarter notes (beginning m. 5) should be a sort of guttural accent. Use a glottal attack on any low pitch, and release the note while making a short gliss downward. The effect might sound a bit like a distant "chain gang" - that's ok.

The solfedge syllables are written to reflect shape-note notation in the Dorian modes of F# and G, respectively. Each syllable should be produced with a short but heavy accent. Sing the solfedge with declamation.

Performed by:

Chamber choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church (Jason Shelton, conductor)
Chestnut Street Singers, Philadelphia, PA
Choral Arts Ensemble (Michael Culloton, conductor), Rochester, MN
DuPage Chamber Singers (Lee Kesselman, conductor), Glen Ellyn, IL
Greenville College Choir (Jeffrey S. Wilson, conductor), South Central US Concert Tour
Ithaca College Choir (Ana Withiam, student conductor), Ithaca, NY
New Amsterdam Singers (Clara Longstreth, conductor), New York, NY
Nova Singers (Laura Lane, conductor), Galesburg, IL
NYSSMA 2011 Conference All-State Mixed Chorus (Paul Rardin, conductor), Rochester, NY
St. Cloud State University Concert Choir (Matthew Ferrell, conductor), St. Cloud, MN
Temple University Choral Conducting Recital (Kela Wanyama, conductor), Philadelphia, PA
The Singers--Minnesota Choral Artists (Matthew Culloton, conductor), Minneapolis, MN
Tufts Choir (Jamie Kirsch, conductor), Medford, MA
University of Michigan Choir (Paul Rardin, conductor), MI
University of Minnesota Chamber Singers (Stan Rothrock, conductor), Saint Paul, MN
Yale Glee Club (Jeffrey Douma, conductor), New Haven, CT & Northwest Tour (WA, OR, CA) & South America Tour

(Have you performed this piece? Add your performance!)