Appalachian Spring is a very popular musical composition by Aaron Copland. This musical composition was first premiered in 1944 and has achieved widespread and enduring popularity as an orchestral suite. Aaron Copland was a renowned American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor of his own and other American music. He was known as “the Dean of American Composers”. Appalachian Spring was one of the many famous creations of Aaron Copland. This music was scored for a thirteen-member chamber orchestra. Moreover, it was created upon the commission of the choreographer and dancer Martha Graham with funds from the Coolidge Foundation. Appalachian Spring was premiered on Monday, October 30, 1944, at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Martha Graham was dancing as the lead role in this music.
Clarinet introduces the simple gift melody in this excerpt. Appalachian Spring has eight sections. The seventh section introduces a set of variations on the Shaker melody Simple Gifts. In fact, it is the most recognizable section of the ballet. The tune of the simple gift was written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. It has been classified as a hymn but many experts think it better be classified as a dance song.
The Lyrics Of Simple Gifts
These Are The Lyrics Of Simple Gifts:
1. Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
2. ’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
3. And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
4. ’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
5. When true simplicity is gained,
6. To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
7. To turn, turn will be our delight,
8. Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Statement Of Theme For Simple Gifts
1. Clarinets (Woodwind Family) play Simple Gifts the first time
2. 1st Variation: Oboe and Bassoon (Woodwind Family)
3. 2nd Variation: Cello and Violin (String Family)
4. 3rd Variation: Trumpet and Trombone (Brass Family)
5. 4th Variation: Clarinets (Woodwind Family)
6. 5th Variation: Full Orchestra
Instrumentation For Appalachian Spring
The original 1944 version was scored for:
1. 1 flute
2. 1 clarinet in B♭
3. 1 bassoon
5. 2 violins I
6. 2 violins II
7. 2 violas
8. 2 cellos
9. 1 double bass
Ballet Storyline Of Appalachian Spring
The main storyline of Appalachian Spring is about a spring celebration of the American pioneers of the 19th century. The celebration was held after building a new Pennsylvania farmhouse. The main characters of this ballet are a bride, a groom, a pioneer woman, a preacher, and his congregation. The L.A. Times provides a short summary of the storyline by stating:
“Created in 1944, the ballet tells a simple story. A young farm couple ruminates on their lives before getting married and setting up a house in the wilderness. An itinerant preacher delivers a sermon. An older pioneer woman oversees the events with sympathy and wisdom. The newlyweds muse on their future as night falls. In the course of the dance, Graham reveals the inner lives of the four principal characters – Wife, Husbandman, Pioneer Woman, and Preacher. She shows that the couple will face a future that will not be all sweetness and light, but she also draws out the private and shared emotional resources they will be able to bring to the challenges. Such is the power of Graham’s images, however, that this very particular story broadens out to become a parable about Americans conquering a new land.”
Form Of The Piece For Appalachian Spring
Appalachian Spring is divided into eight sections. Copland describes each scene thus:
1. Very Slowly: Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light
2. Fast/Allegro: Sudden burst of unison strings in A major arpeggios starts the action. A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.
3. Moderate/Moderato: Duo for the Bride and her Intended – scene of tenderness and passion.
4. Quite Fast: The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feeling – suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers
5. Still Faster/Subito Allegro: Solo dance of the Bride – presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder
6. Very Slowly (As At First): Transition scene to music reminiscent of the introduction
7. Calm And Flowing/Doppio Movimento: Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme. The theme, sung by a solo clarinet, was taken from a collection of Shaker melodies compiled by Edward D. Andrews, and published under the title “The Gift to Be Simple.” The melody borrowed and used almost literally is called “Simple Gifts.”
8. Moderate. Coda/Moderato – Coda: The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. In the end, the couples are left “quiet and strong in their new house.” Muted strings intone a hushed prayerlike chorale passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening music.