Angel Band sheet music
Host of Angels from The Nativity by Gerard David- Flemish, active by about 1484, died 1523.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Words: Jefferson Hascall, 1860
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury, 1862
arr. Ruth Randle, 2014
in honor of Merv Rowley's 94th birthday!
Merv is our mentor, who established this website several years ago,
and drew others into this versatile tuning we call "1-3-5".
Many of you may know this song as performed by The Stanley Brothers, included in the soundtrack of the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, or perhaps The Monkees, or Johnny Cash, but the song is much older than that.
Written by Jefferson Hascall as a poem, and originally titled "My Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast”, Angel Band was put to music and published first in 1860 by J. W. Dadmun in his tunebook The Melodeon, but was later attached to its familiar melody we know today by William Batchelder Bradbury, and published in 1862 in his Bradbury's Golden Shower of S.S. Melodies. Bradbury's tune was originally called The Land of Beulah.
It has its origins in a form of music called "shape note singing", started in the 1800's, as a way to teach people who did not know how to read music, to sing beautiful hymns and anthems in 4 part harmony. This form developed first as a series of just 4 shapes, and was called the fasola system, often known as Sacred Harp. The notes were called fa, sol, la, and mi. This means that each shape had more than one note assigned to it. Later on, William Walker developed a 7-shape system, assigning a different shape to the 7 notes of a scale. He published Angel Band in his Christian Harmony book in 1866.
This form of music is called "Solfege", also known as do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and ti - think "Sound of Music" - "Do, a deer, a female deer..." etc. The exact key is not important, the "leader" would establish a key which (hopefully) would accommodate most of the singing voices present. The singers sat according to their parts - soprano, alto, tenor, bass - in a large square facing one other. They began by singing the song in "solfege", to establish the melody, and would then sing all the verses. The sound was often quite awesome! Shape Note Singings are still held today, predominantly in the South, frequently followed by a huge potluck meal called "Dinner on the Ground"..
The links below will tell you a lot more about shape note singing; please check them out.
Your 1-3-5 Team
Shape Note Singing
They sing it first with the fa so la's, and then when the lyrics start showing on the screen, they sing the words, in 4 part harmony - very powerful!