For Men’s Voices

Music for men's voices has always been special for singers and listeners. David Seitz was born into the Mennonite singing environment that to this day smiles upon and participates actively in TTBB men's quartets and choruses. Many of David's earliest arrangements were for LPs of folk hymns released by Mennonite Broadcasts, now MennoMedia, of Harrisonburg, Virginia.

These, in updated versions, make up much of the Folk Hymns and Spirituals section. African-American spirituals have a prominent place as do hymns from southern and Appalachian collections such as Harmonia Sacra, The Sacred Harp, and The Columbian Harmony.

You will also be interested in the TTBB arrangements of well-known hymns.

Please view and listen. In some audio files, Sibelius Sounds provides a realistic alternative to live recordings.

A note regarding assigning levels

Assigning objective values to level of difficulty in music can be challenging. I have chosen to use a numerical scale of one (least difficult) to five (most). These are derived from my experiences with radio, college, church, community, and professional choirs.

Even after fifty years, the elusiveness of objectivity in arriving at useful averages for level remains. Consideration has been given to a cappella, further divisions of SATB, key changes, polyphony, etc. guests will undoubtedly draw their own conclusions.

—David A. Seitz

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Thank you for sampling the following selections.

Folk Hymns & Spirituals

Broad Is the Road

Catalog No. 129

The tune WINDHAM, by Daniel Read in 1785, appears with this text in The Sacred Harp first published in 1844. This arrangement opens and closes with the melody accompanied by two parts in long drone-like notes. By contrast, a middle stanza employs the rich, so greatly loved TTBB harmonies.

level 3

In notes for the LP I Feel the Spirit, David Augsburger wrote "This hymn invites us to approach a God of mercy who welcomes us with joy and singing. The tune, from early America, combines the typical stern character of its times with liquid movement of praise."

level 3

Deep River

No. 125

Deep River was popularized after the Civil War through the touring of Fisk University's Jubilee Singers. The African-American classical composer Harry T. Burleigh's arrangements of the song in 1916-17 resulted in its additional wide dissemination. This arrangement disperses the melody among all the parts. It utilizes fully the wide range of mood between the solemnity of facing death and the excited anticipation of crossing "over into campground."

level 4

He Is My Everything

(a medley of Jamaican spirituals)

No. 203

In the summer of 1964 while a college sophomore, I toured Jamaica as second tenor in the Mennonite Hour Quartet. We all were caught up with the crowds singing these choruses as they repeated them many times. This medley became part of I Feel the Spirit, the second album of TTBB folk hymns and spirituals produced by Mennonite Broadcasts.

—David A. Seitz

level 4

This arrangement includes a middle stanza for a capable tenor soloist. The three verses of text are selected from a total of eighteen by Joseph Swain (1761–1796), minister in an English Baptist church. The folk tune is set with varying homophonic and contrapuntal textures to gently portray the imagery of words drawn for the Song of Solomon.

level 4

"Spiritual sea chantey" describes this folk hymn. Unlike most bona fide folksongs, where neither author nor composer is known, here both are. However, folk status can be given to Homeward Bound in that it was included in many early hymnals, some of them southern, shape note collections. For example, there was Harmonia Sacra, first printed at Singers Glen near Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 1832.

level 3

William Walker published The Southern Harmony in 1835. He included this old folk tune named RESTORATION, but the text was "Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy." Our lyrics begin with a ballad based on the prodigal son and switch to "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." This arrangement sets one verse to that familiar tune in a refreshing major key before returning to the minor melody for a haunting ending.

level 3

David Seitz wrote this arrangement for his college quartet. An optional baritone or second tenor solo makes an effective beginning to the first two stanzas. This spiritual employs the simple style, still often effective, of repeating the harmonization. Within that framework the setting offers many possibilities for free and soulful expression.

level 2.5

Here is a great possibility for dramatic programming for a capable tenor soloist and also opportunity for strong and effective backup by the choir. The soloist "stranger" enters singing, takes center stage, sings with his brethren, and departs their company, once again singing entirely alone. The choir offers colorful text painting in the middle stanza with "I know dark clouds will gather o'er me" and "But golden fields lie out before me."

level 2.5

Saints Bound for Heaven is one of the best examples of the American folk hymn. It is attributed to William "Singing Billy" Walker, publisher of The Southern Harmony. In this TTBB version, the brisk, eager pace of the opening stanzas is replaced by the tune in a minor key. The baritone section sings slowly and pensively "And when to Jordan's floods we are come" before the rollicking major melody returns for a rousing finale.

level 3

David Seitz said, "I made up the opening baritone solo where he poses as the storyteller. Also, it was fun hitting on the idea in the final refrain to combine this tune with 'Roll, Jordan, Roll!' The basses get to lead the full charge right up to the finish line! This piece is usually cited as a camp meeting song. Reminds me of those Jamaican camp meetings I experienced that summer back in college." This recording is by the Camerata men with Lee Dengler, soloist.

level 3.5

The slaves sometimes were able to meet in the evenings as they stole away to secret places. This spiritual, sung during the long work days, was used to signal such gatherings. In addition to literal messages of faith, their songs sometimes carried more momentous implications of escape.

As noted elsewhere, the Fisk Jubilee Singers introduced African American spirituals to audiences across the United States and Europe.

level 4

Written for children early in the twentieth century, this song entered the folk tradition in 1939 when collector John Lomax added it to the Archive of American Folk Song of the Library of Congress. This Little Light of Mine became part of the civil rights movement before gaining further popularity during the folk revival of the '60s. This version has provided widespread enjoyment with its lyrics that include brief solos for each day of the week.

level 3

This spiritual gives one of the most vivid portrayals of Christ's crucifixion. In this arrangement the voices begin with outcries of "oh" and sing them again before the stark setting of, "Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?" They are used a third time with the quiet, introspective closing words the arranger added, "Oh yes, we were there." The usual "rose up from the dead" stanza is not included in this poignant Good Friday setting.

level 4

With both words and music arising from anonymous old English and early American sources, What Wondrous Love is one of the most purely "folk" hymns in this group. Here again, Singin' Billy Walker included the song in his The Southern Harmony of 1835. The tune, already hauntingly in Dorian mode, is given further mystical character through sections of spare counterpoint. These contrast with a full harmonic treatment of "To God and to the Lamb I Will Sing." The final ppp, open fifth setting of "soul" leaves singers and listeners in rapt wonder.

level 4

One of the iconic recordings of "Saints" was made by Louis Armstrong and his band in 1938. In that Dixieland style it acquired a strong identity with New Orleans. But that was just the chorus. David Augsburger noted that the verses came from the hymn "Good Morning, Brother Pilgrim," again printed in The Southern Harmony. David Seitz says, "I don't know where I found it, but the combination of verses and chorus works great!" The audio here was generously provided by Shalom, a quartet from Hutchinson, Kansas: John Miller, Lyle Stutzman, Eldo Miller, Willard Mast.

level 4

Other Sacred TTBB Arrangements

The tune HOLY MANNA in this spirited arrangement propels listeners into worship through music. Second bass and first tenor share the melody back and forth as both brothers and sisters are invited to "pray, and holy manna will be showered all around." It first appeared in 1825 in William Moore's Columbian Harmony and has been included in more than 200 hymnals since.

Brethren, We Have Met to Worship fits well with In Thy Holy Place We Bow and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty to make a group on the theme of worship.

level 3

God Alone, All Gracious

No. 164a - a cappella

No. 164b - accompanied

David Seitz arranged this selection from a solo song and paraphrased the text from Psalm 145. The piece embodies the qualities that make Mendelssohn one of his favorite composers: melodic grace, rich harmonic content, and clarity of form. This arrangement works well either a cappella or accompanied. The vocal parts are the same for each version.

keyboard level 3.5 ♦ voice parts 2.5

Lowell Mason (1792–1872) was a colossal figure in the church music of mid-nineteenth century America. He wrote this title plus 1,600 other hymn tunes. A significant number are well-known, for example "Joy to the World" (arranged from Handel) and "Nearer, My God, to Thee." Mason promoted a classical European style over the established Early American style of the shape note hymn collections. This animated arrangement keeps all parts busy with its staggered entrances, key changes, and word painting. The recording is by Shalom.

level 4

Brooks Gingerich wrote this arrangement while a student at Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana. It is a moving version of the Lenten/Passion hymn by J. Randall Zercher, now retired as choral director of Hesston College and Minister of Music at Westbury United Methodist Church of Houston. The hymn is included in the 1969 and 1992 Mennonite hymnals. This recording is by the group Farther Along from Goshen College.

level 4

"This hymn goes back to my earliest memories," writes David Seitz. "We sang it in family worship, at church, and in college. I wrote a version for SATB and organ that was recorded by Camerata Singers. It's really a very lofty hymn in text and music. The imagery of the words seems to fit a high church Eucharist better than the intentional simplicity of Mennonite worship."

The words are by church leader S.F. Coffman (1872–1954) with the music by J. D. Brunk (1872–1926), founder of the Goshen College music department, composer, and hymnal editor.

level 3

Praise Our God of Mercy, Vision and Courage

No. 114

(published together)

Give to Our God Immortal Praise

Be Thou My Vision

God of Grace and God of Glory

These three brief settings are ideal for ensembles wishing to sing traditional, more strophic arrangements that still have some variety.

Give to Our God Immortal Praise has energetic, joyful music by English cleric Ralph Harrison (1748–1810) set to an Isaac Watts text.

Be Thou My Vision uses the familiar Irish tune and text. Male singers and their listeners will enjoy this comfortable and appealing arrangement, especially with its victorious third stanza and triumphant ending, "Still be my vision, oh ruler of all!"

The Welsh tune CWM RHONDDA is one of the most stirring melodies in all hymnody. God of Grace and God of Glory in this arrangement for men retains all that hymn tune's majesty and power. Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor at Riverside Church in Manhattan from 1925 until 1946, wrote this text for the opening in 1930 of the current famous Riverside Church building.

level 1.5

This hymn likely ranks in the top ten of those most sung around the Christian world. It was first made known to English speakers through the translation from German by Catherine Winkworth in 1863. "All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near. Join me in glad adoration!" These noble lines have drawn believers together since Joachim Neander wrote them in 1680. A "Praise to the Lord" refrain kicks off, reminds midway, and nails a stunning conclusion to this unique arrangement.

level 3.5