One of my favorite genres of chamber music is the adaptive arrangement, where one takes an existing melody and composes a work with thematic material centered completely around that melody. I’ll Sing On! (2016) is such an arrangement, a fantasia on the American hymn tune “What Wondrous Love is This?”
Being both a church organist and an Appalachian native, these Southern hymn tunes hold a special place in my heart. This arrangement pays homage to two styles of setting these tunes in particular: the modal Sacred Harp, and the conventional SATB hymn. The original tune sits in Dorian mode while sometimes harmonized with the more conventional minor scale underneath, resulting in strategic clashes in the tune’s resolution. Elements of the original counterpoint in the Sacred Harp transcription were preserved in places to bring an appropriate “Americana” to this organ transcription.
The work concludes slightly outside my typical… though I am most inclined to take advantage of the low pedal notes of an organ at all times—and in fact do throughout the rest of the work—the ending here instead uses a soft ascending motion in the manuals, the feet using the swell boxes to create subtle ebbs and flows in the sound. This celestial tone captures the last lines of the final verse of the hymn tune: “And through eternity… I’ll sing on!”