The ultimate collection of early American choral music. The first volume of this set covers New England compositions from 1770 to 1815, the second volume covers a wide range of locations from 1813 to the present.
The author, Nym Cooke, has made the study of shape-note music his life’s work and is among the foremost authorities on the subject. Beginning his research in 1976, he has sung every one of the 5,000 pieces published in American tunebooks through 1810, researched the composers’ biographies, and determined not only how the music should be presented in print, but also how it might best be performed in person.
Included are full musical scores and complete verses for 176 pieces of music, 100 illustrations, over 100 pages of biographical information about composers and musical arrangers, and a CD recording of 35 pieces.
In addition to the music, the author’s historical introduction and detailed critical commentary provide context, and the two sewn volumes are contained in a sturdy slipcase.
Praise for American Harmony:
…the beauty of this collection cannot be overstated. — The Boston Globe
Recommended for not only scholars of early American sacred music but anyone interested in reading about the history and/or viewing and performing pieces created during this time period. — Library Journal
An added bonus to these two volumes is a companion CD with fine performances of 35 tunes. Listen to it, or better yet, sing the tunes yourself or with friends, but read the book before you do. It is well worth it. — Mark Kroll, Early Music America
The uniquely American language of early psalmody has never been so powerfully represented as in this splendid anthology. Nym Cooke not only draws on his unrivalled knowledge of early New England music, but shows how its special character has survived until today through all the vicissitudes of Western musical culture.
— Nicholas Temperley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Nym Cooke’s American Harmony, clearly a lifetime labor of learning and love, is an anthology aimed especially at people who relish choral singing in the psalmody vein. A New England-based scholar and choral director steeped in a homegrown tradition of sacred composing from pre-Revolutionary days to the present, Cooke offers authoritative scores of 176 of his favorite pieces, plus advice on how you might sing them and what you should know about the lives of the psalmodists who wrote them.
— Richard Crawford, author of America’s Musical Life: A History
This is fine music, rigorously and faithfully edited, with suggestions for performance and detailed sketches of the composers, often including portraits or facsimiles of their work. The selections from the New England repertory are unusually varied, based on Cooke’s unparalleled knowledge of the five thousand surviving pieces from that era. American Harmony is the culmination of a lifetime of study, and represents the compiler’s favorite examples of the genre; many singers will find new favorites here as well.
— David Warren Steel, University of Mississippi
Nym Cooke has assembled a collection of early American choral gems with an eye for both singers and scholars. Of particular note is the inclusion of an assortment of folk hymns from the early 19th century, culled from the shape-note books of Wyeth and Davisson. Tunes from Walker’s Southern Harmony and from The Sacred Harp—some classic favorites and some not so well known—are here as well. Many of the book’s pieces have multiple verses underlaid, and appear in their original harmonizations, taken from earliest printings. In short, this collection presents a welcome and firmly grounded jumping-off point for ongoing study and performance of this important body of American musical literature. — Thomas B. Malone
“American Harmony is a thing of beauty… not only to the eye but also the mind and the ear.” — The American Record Guide