Gwyneth Walker

Appalachian Carols

for SATB Chorus and Brass Quintet (1998)
for SSAA Chorus and Brass Quintet (2008)

Return to Gwyneth Walker Music Catalog
View an excerpt from the published score of 1. Wondrous Love
View an excerpt from the published score of 2. Cherry Tree Carol
View an excerpt from the published score of 3. Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head
View an excerpt from the published score of 4. Go Tell It on the Mountain

Listen to a RealAudio (G2) stream of the first movement (SATB version) of this work performed by the Sonoma Valley Chorale, James Griewe, conductor.
Listen to a RealAudio (G2) stream of the second movement (SATB version) of this work.
Listen to a RealAudio (G2) stream of the fourth movement (SATB version) of this work.

Download an MP3 file of the first movement (SATB version) of this work performed by Sonoma Valley Chorale, James Griewe, conductor.
Download an MP3 file of the second movement (SATB version) of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fourth movement (SATB version) of this work.

Download an MP3 file of the second movement (SSA version) of this work performed by the Wichita State University Women's Choir, Jennifer Crowley Johnson, conductor.
Download an MP3 file of the third movement (SSA version) of this work performed by the Bella Voce Women's Chorus of Vermont, Dawn Willis, conductor.

Download an MP3 file of the first movement (SSA version) of this work performed by the Anima Singers, Emily Ellsworth, conductor
Download an MP3 file of the third movement (SSA version) of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fourth movement (SSA version) of this work.


Commissioned by "Desert Voices", Tucson, Arizona.

The four songs selected for Appalachian Carols either had their origins in the Appalachian Mountains, or were adopted and transformed by this region. Thus, they are considered part of the folk and spiritual tradition of the Appalachian musical heritage.

These new arrangements for chorus and brass quintet aim to retain the melodic and harmonic simplicity of the original carols, while expanding upon the inherent character of each song. Therefore, "Wondrous Love" is presented in a straightforward manner, perhaps similar to a Processional. The block chords in the brass evolve into fluid lines to usher in the verse "Ye winged seraphs fly." And newly-composed passages of "Hosanna to the new-born King" are woven into the original song. Harmonies in this setting are purposely open and sparse, within a folk idiom.

"Cherry Tree Carol" exists in many versions. The origin of this melody is Kentucky. The words are a composite of various sources. And the focus of this interpretation is the sense of fear and awe that Joseph and Mary felt upon realizing that their baby would be the Son of God. "On the day of my birth, you will tremble with fear.

Before this serious ending, however, there is time to dally picking cherries!

"Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head" is another Kentucky folk carol. To enhance the lullaby nature of the song, the singers are two soli (i.e. the parents). And, as might well suit the pastoral quality of the lyrics, the accompaniment is simply a French Horn.

"Go Tell it on the Mountain" is a spiritual in origin. This arrangement is in a swing rhythm. And a blues element is added through mixing of major and minor harmonies. This is a particularly joyous song.



Performance Notes

The Carols encompass a wide variety of moods: solemn, energetic, reverent, humorous, reflective and joyous. In order for the entire presentation to work most effectively, it is recommended that the tempo markings in each song be carefully observed. "Wondrous Love" opens slowly, with solemnity. But the tempo picks up considerably at letter G. And a joyous, lighter approach fills the music by letter I.

The "Cherry Tree Carol" with its many verses, is a ballad. It is important to initiate a tempo of 126 in order to allow the music to flow onward moderately quickly. One might conduct one beat per measure when comfortable. An entertaining approach to this song is to have the men and women sing looking towards each other, answering back and forth. This highlights the humorous sections at letters G, H and I.

"Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head" is scored for solo Soprano, Tenor and Horn. The concept is to present Mary and Joseph singing to the Baby. Therefore, light voices might be most appropriate to this simple setting. The Horn may play from off stage.

"Go Tell it on the Mountain" is to be performed very joyfully. Singers must sing out! And once again, the tempi are critical to the structure of the song. The refrains are at a lively tempo of 96. And the verses are at 72, in a quasi-recitative style, with breaks between each phrase. Pay close attention to the tempi in the closing sections.

The intention of the Appalachian Carols is to provide music that is both sacred and entertaining for a Holiday Concert. Joy and humor are present along with reverence. A chorus with personality is best suited to this music.

The brass quintet writing calls for moderately skilled players. A college ensemble could perform the music, given adequate rehearsal time.

Notes by the composer